For Brevard County restaurant owners, it is 2008 all over again - but in a worse economy. Due to the Federal Reserve's printing of money over the last two years to buy 'toxic assets' from wall street banks, the value of the dollar has declined, leading to increases in commodity prices across the board, especially in food prices.
Compounded by the weakened dollar, Florida and Mexico experienced a harsh freeze this past winter which has led to nearly double price increases in produce prices.
This leaves Brevard County restaurant owners in a quandary:
1. Go through the expense of printing new menus to raise prices in a down economy where their customers are already losing $20 a week in discretionary income that is going to fill up their gas tanks and grocery carts;
2. Experience the dreaded margin compression (a.k.a. sucking it up; eating it).
The vast majority of independent restaurants in Brevard County have elected to choose option #2.
And while independent restaurant owners struggle with thin margins to make their underwater mortgage, employment taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes - Darden is lobbying the Florida Legislature to receive as much as $5 million a year in sales tax breaks according to the Orlando Sentinel.
While the hallmarks of a successful restaurant might have used to been good food, atmosphere, and a well-run business, independent Brevard County restaurant owners would find themselves hard-pressed to compete with communist-like state-sponsored soup, salad, and breadsticks.
Incidentally, Darden has reported an increase in earnings for its Q3.
This article has been sent to Florida State Senators Thad Altman, Mike Haridopolos and Florida House of Representatives Steve Crisafulli, Tom Goodson, Debbie Mayfield, John Taylor, and Ritch Workman for a response.