'There was never a full recovery': Soaring inflation and smaller crowds hurt local Edmonton restaurants

As inflation drives food costs higher and profits lag behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Edmonton restaurants are feeling the crunch.

Despite the holiday season often being the busiest time of year for many local restaurants, the soaring cost of operations and a smaller number of visitors is forcing some places to close.

"Nobody can keep going like this indefinitely," said Kyla Kazeil, owner of Prairie Fish N' Chips.

The central Edmonton spot formerly known as Grandin Fish N' Chips is closing its storefront. The local restaurant rebranded over the summer to distance itself from Bishop Grandin, an architect of the residential school system.

"Definitely wouldn't take it back," Kazeil said.

"But you know, right in the middle of like the hardest part of the pandemic and going through the name change and funding that, is also (the fact) that no one's working in offices where we used to have a really healthy lunch and happy hour."

Andrew Cowan, Northern Chicken owner, says the thinner crowds make it harder to operate as costs keep climbing.

"We'll probably spend an extra $40,000 this year on canola oil alone," Cowan said. "And that's just a filler for deep fryers to cook the chicken."

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), supply chain issues and inflation are making it harder to turn a profit.

"Only 30 per cent of Alberta small businesses are back to making normal sales," said Annie Dormuth, CFIB spokesperson.

A survey conducted by the CFIB found 20 per cent of small businesses in Alberta are considering closing or filing for bankruptcy.

"There was never a full recovery," Dormuth added. "It may appear that way when you see a full parking lot. But it's not the reality."

Cowan says his restaurant may not survive, and that's why he believes supporting local businesses is essential.

"Anytime I see somebody close their doors, it's painful," he said. "I kind of don't want that pain myself too."