A look at the Colorado Springs restaurant industry on the road to recovery

A look at the Colorado Springs restaurant industry on the road to recovery
Posted at 8:09 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 00:25:13-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — From temporary closures to inflation and labor shortages, the restaurant industry has been hit hard. Many restaurants in Colorado Springs are still dealing with those issues as other business owners open up new places.

Epiphany, in downtown Colorado Springs, is a new business that opened its doors for its first full day of service on Thursday. It's a restaurant, a live music venue, a bar, and a coffee shop all in one. While many other businesses have been facing their own set of challenges, the owners of Epiphany are remaining optimistic and hoping the multi-purpose concept will pay off.

"There are some other music venues. There are obviously lots of restaurants and bars and cafes, but we're doing all of that here in this one location, and it's something that hasn't really existed yet," said Mandy Todd, a managing partner at Epiphany. "We believed Colorado Springs needed a place like this."

Todd says opening the restaurant wasn't easy.

"We first got wind of this possibility, pre-pandemic and got really excited about it and then went through several crushing moments where we didn't think it was going to happen. But here we are, it's been a ride for sure. It's been challenging in a lot of ways, said Todd.

It also hasn't been easy for businesses that have already been open like, like 503W

"This year has been the most challenging that we've ever faced and its probably because we've had to deal with so many residual things," said Nina Lee, the owner of 503W for eight years.

Lee says they've also had to adjust for price increases and increase wages to retain and recruit employees. But one of the most trying issues was overcoming labor shortages.

"That was by far one of the most difficult things we've had to face here," said Lee. "We literally lost seven people in one week, and that made a huge morale bust for us, but we got through it. But I think one of the positive things that we did learn, was recognizing the hard work the staff was doing."

In September, 84% of Colorado restaurants reported to the Colorado Restaurant Association, they didn't have enough employees. 22 percent of those owners say they were more than 20% below necessary staffing levels.

For 503W, they began operating at 35% fewer staff and cutting back on hours to make sure they still offered a quality dining and drinking experience.

"We used to open at 9 a.m. and now we're open at 11 a.m. So for the weekly average, we reduced our hours 15 hours a week," said Lee, who mentioned the business is now back to being fully staffed. She also said they began closing the business on Mondays and have kept that schedule.

Data also shows that one in four Colorado restaurants are still contemplating permanent closures.

However, staff at Epiphany are optimistic that the unique business concept and downtown location on Tejon St. will bring success.

"We love this location in the center of the downtown core. We really think it's going to bring people together from lots of different spaces," said Todd. "We feel like there's nothing quite like this and we know that we're bringing Colorado together in a beautiful way."

When enjoying some live music or a meal at Epiphany, you don't have to worry about doing math for a tip. A few other local businesses are doing the same by running a hospitality included model. Todd says it's a way for customers to know what it actually costs to run a business, as final prices are listed on the menu. It also provides staff a reliable pay they can count on and not a salary that's dependent on tips.

Local artists of different genres will play and perform at Epiphany every Friday and Saturday night.