Restaurants feeling the economic pinch

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News 12 at 11 o'clock, May 16, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The economy affects each of us in our own way, and restaurants are no exception. For some owners and workers , it's putting more stress on their plates.

Pat Shaffer joined the family restaurant business at 15-years-old. Now she co-owns Villa Europa on Deans Bridge Road.

"I fell in love with the restaurant business. That's what kind of happens, you have to have a passion for it," she said.

Without that passion, she'd have a tougher time dealing with her latest trouble, the slumping economy.

She says now when some companies deliver food they hit her with a surcharge because of the high gas prices.

"More and more have jumped on that bandwagon, but of course they have to, they're forced," she said.

She says it's the same for repair and maintenance. They're charging more when they come out to do work.

On top of that, food prices are up, making it harder for her to order up.

"We've seen sugar and flour, staples like that, almost double in the last two months," she said.

With all the added costs, she's thought about raising her prices, but she's not ready for that.

Business has already slowed down and she doesn't want to chase anyone away with higher prices.

Instead she's finding other ways to cut corners, like asking her staff to save energy.

"Please turn off lights, as they would at home, close the refrigerator doors," Schaffer said.

Her employees are feeling the crunch, too. Server Anthony Bennerman has noticed some customers aren't tipping as well as they used to.

"Normally it was about 18 now it's about 10 percent," he said.

He says it's the state of the economy that's keeping people from being generous.

"They're making choices, now and they say, 'Well something needs to give,'" Schaffer said.

Even with people giving less in tips and even giving up on eating out, Schaffer still says she'll give it all to make things work.

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