Why Guy Fieri Says The Restaurant Industry Is 'So Difficult Right Now'

"It's so difficult right now," Guy Fieri said in an interview with Insider about the state of the restaurant industry. When a person who Restaurant Business lauds as a hero of the pandemic says that the industry is in dire straits, it's time to pay attention. The crux of the problem is the ongoing inflation felt by everyone and the rise in labor costs which put a strain on a business model that already, as Fieri told Insider, works within "[the] smallest margins in the world."

Earlier in the pandemic, Fieri was raising money and awareness to support restaurant workers and owners who couldn't work due to closings. The work for which Restaurant Business praised him involved partnering with the National Restaurant Association on the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to raise $21.5 million that funded $500 grants to workers across the country. Similarly, in May 2021, CNBC covered how Fieri created a series of $25,000 grants for people who wanted either to build a new restaurant or renew their pandemic-stricken one.

However, the problems are different from earlier in the pandemic, when businesses that couldn't open could be somewhat alleviated with an influx of cash to pay for rent, for example. Now, difficulties hit at the basic model with which those businesses operate. 

This may be the new normal

The situation may be worse than what Guy Fieri suggests. Rather than being in a difficult situation, the industry could have entered a new landscape.

That, at any rate, is the conclusion the National Restaurant Association Senior Vice President Hudson Riehle reached. She shared with CNN, "Restaurants and their patrons have found themselves in a 'new normal.' Given emergent technology, changing consumer behavior and dining preferences, and the extraordinary challenges of the last two years, the industry is unlikely to ever completely return to its pre-pandemic state." Most owners surveyed said that recruiting and retaining staff is the biggest problem facing the industry this year. More strikingly, 96% of survey respondents do not expect the issues with the ever-plagued supply chain to resolve themselves this year. 

A silver lining could be that owners are getting creative in dealing with low or no-staff issues. They may invest in robot technology to replace humans (38% of adults said they would be fine with robot servers), and owners may also turn to ghost kitchens, offsite delivery-only kitchens used by restaurants (via CNN).