For those who have resumed eating out in restaurants – whether it be inside or outside dining I am sure you’ve noticed a difference on the menu. Not only are prices higher, but the higher food costs and staffing shortages are creating a shorter list of items and often with fewer ingredients and sides. According to Datassential who analyzed over 4,800 menus across the US, in 2021, 60% of restaurants reported reducing their menu size. The most shortages were reported at fine-dining establishments with the number of items declining 23%. The consumer-price index for food away from home, which includes purchases from restaurants, rose 5.8% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase since 1982, according to BLS. They found that restaurants are focused on reducing the amount of appetizer and desserts. The Wall Street Journal reports that now some restaurants are placing more emphasis on preparing ingredients ahead of time, such as fresh pasta that is then frozen in bulk. The sad news is that after we saw an increase in in-person dining sales earlier this year, the newly emerging Covid-19 variants are causing a slowdown in restaurant reservations. Foodservice is a tricky business anytime – yet alone trying to operate during a pandemic with skittish patrons. According to the National Restaurant Association we have seen over 110,000 restaurants close since the beginning of the pandemic – and I fear that lots more will follow. There are millions of kitchen workers and waiters who are out of jobs – the lucky ones have been able to switch careers – the unlucky ones have had to deal with irate customers who come to their restaurants ready to fight over prices, missing menu items and yes, even wearing masks if the city has mandated that protocol. The horror stories make the evening news. The pandemic is not over, and some pundits say this will continue for months to come. Broadway has shuttered once again, major companies who had planned to reopen their offices in January have postponed their back to work schedules. It’s not a foodservice problem we have to deal with - it’s a national problem – that demands we all offer mutual respect and understanding to our fellow men and women if we are to survive. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and it is certainly the time that we offer each other even more compassion than we normally do.