The costs of running a business in New York City are higher than ever and while many restaurants are used to rising rents, they are now being squeezed by the rise in food costs that are climbing faster than ever before.
Why is this happening? One of the big reasons is that severe weather is posing dramatic challenges to the food supply chain that are real and expensive. The droughts in California over the last year alone have resulted in a significant increase in the price of almonds, avocados, beef and other items.
The cost increases travel from farm to table to customer.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of New York City is our food scene. Over 60 million people visit our city from all over the planet, with a desire not only to see the sites that we have, but also to take advantage of our innovative and diverse dining options. The New York City restaurant industry not only serves visitors and residents, but also provides thousands of jobs across the five boroughs.
With costs and quality becoming real issues for restaurant owners, more are paying attention than ever before to the impact that severe weather and climate change are having on our food supply. In November, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce hosted the Business Forward Foundation as they released a timely and concerning report that detailed that impact of severe weather on the restaurant industry. The report seeks to rebut concerns about the potential increase in energy costs as a result of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan by comparing it to cost increases in the food supply chain from severe weather.
Overall, the Business Forward Foundation determined that the costs of curbing climate change today would create savings for tomorrow. The electricity rate increase under the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan standards would add only one cent to the cost of a $20 meal. In contrast, rising food costs amount to about $1.63 per $20 meal.
As world leaders gather in Paris for talks on climate change, it will be important the conversation not only focus on the moral imperatives of global warming, but also on the economic impact of not taking action.
As New Yorkers, we are acutely aware of the physical devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, but also recognize the devastating impact that severe weather around the world is playing on the price and quality of the food we use in our restaurants.
It’s time to take immediate steps to address this new reality—because, frankly, it is becoming bad for business. The costs of some new regulations are insignificant compared to the costs of not acting at all.
The hospitality industry is critical for New York City and we must do everything we can to keep the heart of the city strong. Taking action on climate change is not only important for our environment, but also for our economy.
Ken Biberaj is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.