Peoria restaurant owner faces staff shortages and rising costs

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

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

Shortage of staff has forced some local restaurants to reduce opening hours and days. Sid Ruckriegel, entrepreneur and Peoria City Council member, said cutting 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 is closed, he said, landlords lose money that could be used to pay rent, taxes and other recurring costs.

“All of this keeps happening and there is no respite,” Kouri said. “So it’s a snowball effect and sooner or later these places won’t survive.”

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

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