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Florida Restaurants are seeing increased costs, weekend traffic, according to report

Two friends eat dinner in a crowded restaurant
Andrea Piacquadio
Two friends eat dinner in a crowded restaurant

Big Shifts

Restaurants in Florida are experiencing some major shifts in the industry, according to a report by Square, like spending more of their money on the weekends compared to the middle of the week during the COVID pandemic.

While weekends are now once again becoming peak dining out times post Covid, having a positive bottom line remains difficult.

Aly Lalani owns Build My Burger in Orlando.

“I feel like it's probably because of inflation, the prices have gone up, and the lunch crowd is looking for that affordability factor,” said Lalani. “So they might not be going out as much while they're working during the day.”

Aly Lalani is the CEO and founder of Build My Burger
Listen to Aly Lalani share how he founded Build My Burger in Orlando and his expectations for this summer.
Aly Lalani is the founder and CEO of Build My Burger in Orlando

Restaurants in Florida are also experiencing changes to labor costs, payroll, and consumer preferences this summer.

“Labor costs have changed dramatically. Since 2017, average hourly workers wages have grown about 66% compared to just 40% for retail workers,” said Ming-Tai Huh, head of restaurants at Square. “In Central Florida, we see median restaurant worker making about $13 per hour before tips in overtime or $17 including tips in overtime.”

Earnings are up 5.7% and wages are up 7.24% in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area, according to Square.

Huh said that trend is likely to continue as Florida continues to raise minimum wage by one dollar a year, until it reaches $15 an hour in 2026.

However, Huh said payroll costs have gone down for some restaurants like cafes and quick service establishments.

“We see that they're being able to automate parts of their business faster than the full service restaurants and bars,” said Huh.

Huh adds that restaurants that adopt technology to become more efficient and empower their workers are helping them be successful.

“So that's implementing kiosks or online ordering, or kitchen display systems that can improve the accuracy and speed of your kitchen,” he said.

But, Build My Burger owner Aly Lalani, disagrees that advanced technology is needed for success.

“We haven't invested in self checkout or any of that. We still believe in talking to guests. We still believe in taking physical orders,” said Lalani. “A lot of places around here don't even accept cash. We still do because it's a legal currency and we want to make sure that we're able to accommodate anyone that wants to eat at Build My Burgers. So technology is Great, but I also feel like we're in the business of people.”

Consumer preferences have become tight since the pandemic, according to Square.

“Consumers have always looked for great food and service, but the bar has only gotten higher. They now expect convenience, speed, and a smooth experience, when it comes to booking a reservation, ordering, paying or getting that delivery on time,” said Ming-Tai Huh. If this experience isn't up to snuff, then restaurants risk losing customers.”

Huh said since the shift to more online ordering and delivery during the pandemic, consumers are expecting more restaurants to keep that option around.

“A lot of restaurants never even touched delivery prior to the pandemic,” said Huh. “And now even if you are a quote unquote nice restaurant, it's likely that you will have to have delivery service in order to make sure that you can grow your business and increase those revenues”

Summer Expectations

Whether it will be a busy summer is a toss up for Florida restaurants.

According to Square, data is pointing towards a busy summer season for Florida restaurants, but Aly Lalani said summer is a slower part of the year for Build My Burgers.

“We are in a college town, and we're missing like 80,000 kids right now, but every year we're up about 10%,” he said.

Lalani uses the slow down during the summer months to focus on caterings and getting more involved in the community.

“Then in August, obviously, when the kids come back, our focus is going to be just making sure we execute on time,” he said.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to Central Florida Public Media. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. While at UCF, she was an intern for Central Florida’s public affairs show, Intersection. She joined on as Morning Edition Host in 2019. In 2022, Ms. Blake was appointed to the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalist’s board of directors.
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