Business

The Peoria restaurant owner faces staff shortages and rising costs

Kouri's Pub has a large open air beer garden where customers can enjoy the weather outdoors and relax in the shade.
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Kouri's Pub has a large open air beer garden where customers can enjoy the weather outdoors and relax in the shade.

For Dan Kouri, co-owner of Lariat Steakhouse, Kouri’s Grill & Bar and a Sonic restaurant, finding the right staff has been difficult. He said the Lariat is working with 70% of the staff it needs.

“It’s really what everyone says the job market is extremely tight in Peoria,” said Kouri, who is also president of the Heart of Illinois Hospitality Association.

A shortage of staff has forced some local restaurants to reduce hours and days of operations. Sid Ruckriegel, an entrepreneur and general member of the Peoria City Council, said reducing hours can work well for businesses looking to maximize service with limited staff.

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DAVID ZALAZNIK/JOURNAL STAR Lariat Steakhouse co-owner Dan Kouri.

But Kouri disagrees with this approach. Every day a business closes, owners lose money that could be used to pay rent, taxes, and other recurring costs.

“All that stuff keeps coming back and there’s no mercy for it,” Kouri said. “So it’s a snowball effect and sooner or later those places aren’t going to survive.”

At the Lariat Steakhouse, Kouri recounted a night when a customer was shocked by the prices of alcoholic drinks at the restaurant. Although he said the customer understood when explaining the rising operating costs, Kouri said many customers were surprised to learn how drastically inflation is affecting restaurants.

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