Kentucky eateries facing lean times

Stacy Roof wastes no time explaining what’s causing restaurants to hurt right now.

“It all comes down to fuel,” said Roof, president and chief executive of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, based in Louisville. “Fuel is the root of all evil right now.”

Restaurants across the nation are being hit by food-supplier surcharges, extra costs that account for recent gasoline price increases.

The charges, which food-transport companies have instituted mostly in the last year, are added to every delivery and vary depending on factors such as distance from supplier to the restaurant or the number of deliveries a supplier makes each week.

Roof said prices on most food supplied to restaurants are up between 85 percent and more than 100 percent from what they were a year ago. “I would liken it to how 10 years ago, no pizza deliverer charged for delivery.” Now, delivery charges are more common.

These fees, however, aren’t nearly as small. And for restaurateurs already feeling the crunch from customers deciding to save money by dining at home and the higher prices restaurants are paying for ingredients, it hurts.

David Taylor, a manager at Billy’s Bar-B-Q in Lexington, said his business has struggled to keep up with the added fuel charges. “We have a pretty big base of regulars, so unlike a lot of places, business isn’t down. Even the fuel charge isn’t really that hard of a hit by itself, but combine that with the sky-high prices of food, that’s really the biggest thing affecting us.”