Out and About WRAL.com
Raleigh, North Carolina – A decision to change the materials for cabinets and counters at her soon-to-open cafe in downtown Raleigh has put Lindsay Wrege on hold.
Wrege planned to open 321 Coffee at 615 Hillsborough St. in May and then July. However, supply chain delays pushed that date back. Wrege does not know when the establishment will open.
“I recognize there may have been delays, but I always assumed a delay would be about a week,” Wrege said. “And, two months of, literally, sitting halfway was completely unexpected [and] super disappointing, but just the reality.”
Wrege and other Triangle business owners face the reality of supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and rising costs. She could not find a subcontractor for the construction of cabinets and counters.
“We are very lucky because all of our team members – like builders, architects, etc. – do their best. It’s just a tough time to … be in construction,” Wrege said.
Construction began in February at 321 Coffee. It was supposed to be a 45 day build for the 500 square foot structure.
“That didn’t happen, obviously,” Wrege said.
Wrege began interviewing candidates to fill leadership positions to ensure his facility had the right staff. She said it was a disappointment to realize she will miss summer clients who can use the courtyard outside the space.
Wrege said his employees want to know when they can start.
“I don’t know when the construction will be finished yet,” Wrege said. “I don’t know when we’ll be able to get in there to practice… We have a lot of people asking about the soft-opening events, inauguration events and such, there’s just a lot of unknowns.
“That’s what’s really hard when people want answers, and you just don’t have them.”
The price Wrege paid for building materials fluctuated widely.
“I think everything fluctuates from when we initially review materials to when we place orders,” Wrege said. “It’s crazy. Like, some quotes you get, they’ll say, ‘Hey, it’s good for a day or a week.’
“While I think more often than not you get quotes that last about 30 [or] even 60 days. And, again, because their supply chains are everywhere as well. If prices go up for them, they would lose money if they locked us up. And so, it’s just acknowledging that, I think, everyone is in this predicament.
Two restaurants, a building and months late
Like Wrege, Ari Augenbaum, COO of Richmond-based Still Deciding LLC, wanted to have already opened his two establishments at 927 West Morgan St. in Raleigh: Soul Taco, a fusion concept of Latin and soul cuisine, and JewFro, a Jewish-African restaurant. concept.
Augenbaum had planned to open Soul Taco in September 2021. However, the company had issues with the permission and application process. This resulted in scheduling issues with the originally hired contractor.
“I cried a lot,” Augenbaum said. “I have a lot more gray hair.”
Soul Taco and JewFro will operate separately at the front of the house, but will share a kitchen led by Chef Cady Carignan. Augenbaum and Carignan worked together years ago at National Harbor in Maryland.
After months of delays, Augenbaum said he next wanted to open Soul Taco on June 29, but the establishment was vandalized.
“Unfortunately, due to vandalism and as we will talk about delay[s] in the supply chain they told us that it would take them at least a week and a half to two weeks before they could find the glass to replace the window, so obviously this is going to set us back a few more weeks in our already extremely project delayed,” Augenbaum said.
Augenbaum doesn’t know when Soul Taco and JewFro will open.
“If I started all of this again, and started now instead of starting a year ago when we originally signed a lease, I’d probably put the plans on hold,” Augenbaum said.
Rising costs have changed how Soul Taco operates its Richmond-based locations and how it plans to open its Raleigh restaurant.
“Everyone sees that. You see it at the grocery store, you see it at the gas pump, you see it everywhere you go, a pretty big increase in the cost of goods and availability limitations,” Augenbaum said. “We’ve had to make adjustments to our opening menu account for some items that we can’t get consistently like we used to.”
For example, Soul Taco locations typically offer the “Al Pastor” oxtail, which is a taco with braised root beer oxtail, pineapple salsa chicharrones, and tangy agave sauce. . Augenbaum said the cost of oxtail has risen about 225% from pre-pandemic times, leading him to scrap the dish for the Raleigh site. He also mentioned how rising food costs impact Soul Taco and JewFro differently.
“JewFro is an upscale, casual restaurant, and so if we were to charge $5 more for a steak, nobody’s really going to bat an eyelid,” Augenbaum said. “On the taco side, there’s a limit to what you can charge for a taco.
“I can’t charge $8.50 for a single taco. Nobody is going to pay. It’s just crazy, and so when you see these places like burgers and pizzerias and tacos, they’re hit the hardest because they can’t raise prices beyond what the consumer will accept .
Augenbaum also said rising labor costs forced Soul Taco to reduce menu items. He anticipates that the kitchen operation will be more manageable for the cross-use of certain ingredients.
“We can’t justify as many people in the kitchen as we would have liked,” Augenbaum said.
Augenbaum explained what it’s like to see the openings take much longer than he originally anticipated.
“It’s extremely painful and it’s extremely disheartening,” Augenbaum said. “I mean, we have three active restaurants in Richmond, Va. right now, and every dollar we’re tracking in the Raleigh operation has basically put us in a position where we’re not making money right now. because we keep putting every extra penny to a space that doesn’t generate revenue.
To mitigate some of the losses in the interim, Augenbaum said Carignan has launched two shadow kitchen concepts out of space at 927 West Morgan St. since passing its necessary inspections:
” What is that ? I thought we were getting a Soul Taco”: a fried chicken concept available through online ordering only using services like GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats
D. Wade Burgers, which is Dwyane Wade’s burger concept
“Obviously every month that we’re not open we’re losing money,” Augenbaum said.
Soul Taco, JewFro and 321 Coffee are far from the only restaurants in the Triangle and the country that are due to open, but are facing delays.
For example, Longleaf Swine co-owner Adam Cunningham plans to open a barbecue restaurant in late August or early September in Raleigh at 300 E. Edenton St.
Wrege offered advice for anyone trying to open a restaurant given the current economic conditions.
“Keep an open mind when building a team and recruiting,” Wrege said.
Wrege also operates a 321 Coffee location at the State Farmers Market. She said there were plans to open a third location at 300 Morris St. in Durham.
“I really take this schedule with a huge grain of salt,” Wrege said of the timing of the Durham site opening.
321 Coffee provides employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It was so cool throughout this process of announcing the new location how Raleigh and a lot of the locals… other tenants, businesses [and] people who live in the area have been,” Wrege said. “They’re so excited for us to open there so we can be part of their daily routine, and that means a lot to us.”
321 Coffee’s Farmer’s Market opened in 2019. Wrege said his dream was to open a cafe in downtown Raleigh.
“It’s going to be a great day,” Wrege said. “Now that it’s here and happening, it’s not every day that you really see a real dream come true, but like today, it will be such a team win for us. .”