Portland’s Restaurants Eat It

by | Dec 23, 2008

We went to Newport Seafood Grill for lunch today—day 10 of a massive winter storm. The staff was incredibly happy to see us.

According to The Oregonian, Portland restaurants are reeling.

Portland’s formerly bustling scene is squeezed as never before. Soaring ingredient costs, escalating gas prices, vanishing credit lines, a looming increase in the minimum wage and consumers who closed their wallets back in October all contribute.

David Machado, owner of the popular Lauro Kitchen and Vindalho says, “This weather is ripping the guts out of restaurants and wiping out one of our busiest times — this micro climate thing is going to tip the balance against a lot of businesses because restaurant margins are as thin as they get.”

“I’ve heard some people say their business has dropped by as much as 40 percent in the last month or so,” says Bill Perry of the Oregon Restaurant Association. “Things weren’t too bad until October — sales were off just 4 percent or so over the year — but then, two or three weeks before the election, things just froze. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Oregon lost 1,900 restaurant jobs in September and October, and suppliers are left with unpaid bills and dwindling orders.

“These are hard times for everybody because we’re all in the same boat,” says Ben Savery of wholesaler Provista Specialty Foods Inc. Savery has been in the business for years and says he’s never seen the likes of 2008. “The economy has been not great for a year or so, but in the last three months it’s become something much worse.”

[UPDATE] We did what we could to prop up the restaurants this holiday season by visiting Fife, Ciao Vito, Toro Bravo, Pok Pok and McCormick & Schmick’s.