Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

Uncertain economic times have called for difficult decisions for small business owners countrywide, yet some restaurant owners have managed to resist, and even reverse the trend of increasing food prices.

While increasing costs of living, and eating, have been a challenge for Canadians from coast to coast, prices at Abe’s in Byron, a sub shop in west London, are lower than they were several weeks ago.

“Customers were surprised by the fact that I actually did that, but they were the ones that got me through [pandemic restrictions], so I had to pay it back,” said Abraham Abado, the owner of Abe’s in Byron.

Abe’s first opened in 1984 in the area of Baseline and Wellington roads. After moving the business several times, Abado made the move to Byron, where his restaurant, known for subs, wraps, and baked pitas, became well known in the community.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Abado became familiar with the difficult balancing act of contending with skyrocketing food costs and increasingly cash-strapped patrons. 

Prices have had to increase at the sub shop in the past, especially to deal with steep jumps in the cost of sandwich and salad staples like lettuce, causing a noticeable drop in visits from some customers. Customers who visited several times a week began to come once every few weeks in response to increasing economic strain, Abado said.

Abe's in Byron is located at 431 Bolder Rd., in west London. The shop is photographed here.
Abe’s in Byron is located at 431 Boler Rd., in west London. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

That’s why as prices settled, Abado began looking for opportunities to make life easier for his customers.

“I had to look at where I get my food. Other sources that would have the exact same products for a better price,” he said.

One of the ways Abado looked to reduce costs was by doing the heavy lifting himself. Many restaurants rely on deliveries from suppliers, who charge extra for shipping and handling. Abado began making trips to markets and stores himself, bringing his children and nephew with him to help pick up food a few times per week.

“My family is amazing. They really help me out with what they can,” he added.

The new methodology increased the time investment and workload to run the restaurant, Abado said. But thanks to meat prices coming down and cost savings around buying practices, Abado arrived at a menu that is now at least $1 cheaper across the board, with some items seeing price reductions of up to $3.

Community support

Long-time customers like Steffan Carlos were shocked to see a new menu board with lowered prices when they walked into Abe’s in Byron one day. 

“I was like, what? Abe, what the heck man, why are you putting your prices down? Everybody else is putting their prices up,” said Carlos.

Since lowering prices, a Facebook post made by Carlos to draw attention to the move has brought increased attention, and business, for Abe’s.

“The economy is tough. Prices are going up everywhere. I want people to know that Abe’s isn’t just about freshness, it’s about being able to afford it,” Abado said.

Abe Abado making a baked pita.
Menu prices at Abe’s in Byron have been cut by up to $3 in some instances due to a re-evaluation of how Abado sources his food. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

With a tightening economy and increasing food costs, one expert who spoke to CBC News says despite the effectiveness of Abado’s solution, there are no one-size-fits-all rules to cost control.

“Individual restaurants are taking individual approaches, and I think it depends to a degree on where they are feeling the pinch,” said Mike von Massow, an associate professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Guelph.

Several issues currently plague the restaurant industry, like a weakening Canadian dollar, rising interest rates causing Canadians to eat out less, poor harvests, increasing rent, and supply chain issues. Perhaps the only universal part of a restaurateur’s experience is the struggle itself, said von Massow.

Restaurants may choose different approaches based on available produce, their location, and other factors.

When asked if he had any advice to offer to other London restaurant owners, Abado’s response was simple.

“I’m just a humble old guy. I don’t like to lecture. I’m sure that some some businesses already have maxed out their their ways and and and their expenses, so they can’t, they can’t do much about it. I was fortunate to find ways to do that,” he said.

“With the constant support from my neighbours, the students, the regulars. I had to find a way to make it affordable for people.”


By admin