The Problems of Running a New York Diner

NEW YORK – Diners are traditionally the neighborhood restaurants that combine quality and impeccable service with a wide range of food at affordable prices. The first generation of immigrants was particularly involved in the diner and restaurant business in general especially in the New York tri-state area. Owning a diner became a stereotypical occupation for Greek expatriates.

The challenges facing the existence of diners have been reported not only by the National Herald, but also in the mainstream American media. Among the media outlets covering the struggles of diners is Fox News, which on August 3 presented its own report on the future of diners.

The report focused on the dwindling number of diners and said that out of a thousand diners in Manhattan at the end of the last century, only 400 have managed to survive to the present day. In fact, the report emphasized that the devastating blow has been given by skyrocketing rents and the cost of raw materials, as well as the operating costs of the company.

At the heart of the report were the Greeks Fanis (Frank) Tsiamtsiouris, co-owner of Metro Diner at 100th Street and Broadway, and Erick Kontogiannis, co-owner of the Viand Cafe at 75th Street and Broadway (2130 Broadway).

Although their statements differ, however, they have many common features and confirm the issues TNH has also written about in articles devoted to Greek restaurants. The increasingly high rents, demographic changes, changes in eating habits, the increase in the minimum hourly wage of employees and in the imposition of penalties from the municipal and state authorities, and the expansion of chains including Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others.

We must include the taxes, water, electricity, insurance, fines, and the rising prices of raw materials that eat away at a diner’s profits.

Tsiamtsiouris, who for four decades has worked in the restaurant business and has four diners in Manhattan, emphasized that when rent alone only chews up 20% of the revenue, it is very difficult to survive as a business.

He also informed us that in 1982, when he opened the City Diner at the corner of 90th Street and Broadway, he paid $1,750 a month, and today the rent, including taxes, amounted to $40,000 per month.

Erick Kontogiannis, referring to the reasons that jeopardize the viability of a restaurant, included the increase in the minimum wage and the increases in credit card fees.

At the same time, he pointed out that restaurateurs are trying to limit the operating costs of their businesses and make the necessary changes to the menu so that they can attract new customers and meet the demands of the public.


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