Bobby Van’s Steakhouse owner says employees have been asking for raises as inflation sits near 40-year highs

By Talia Kaplan FOXBusiness

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Bobby Van’s Steakhouse owner Joseph Smith said that soaring inflation and a rise in crime in New York City have caused him to lose about a million dollars in business on a monthly basis between his eight restaurants.

“You take all that together and we are getting killed,” Smith told Fox News Digital, stressing that crime and inflation has been “absolutely devastating” for business.

“Everything has gone up from gas to my employees’ rents,” he said, noting that his workers have been asking for raises to account for the higher costs. 

Smith said that he has been raising wages by $2 to $3 an hour depending on the position, but that the move further impacts his bottom line. 

“You can’t really say no when you know they have three children and their rent is going up, their gas is going up, to buy food is going up,” Smith said, noting that he also gives his employees chicken, rice and beans every Friday to help them out with the inflationary pressure. 

Smith also noted that he has been “forced” to raise menu prices 10 to 20% depending on the item as his labor and input costs have soared. 


“We are taking a second look now again, and we might have to make another move, which is the feeling of most restaurateurs,” Smith said. “We don’t want to do it because there is only so much you can charge for a meal [and] there is only so much you can charge for a drink.”

Smith noted that he had to raise meat prices by 15% because “it went up 30% from my purveyor.” 

“I couldn’t pass the 30% on to the customer, otherwise I’d have no customers,” he continued, noting that he is “having to eat a lot of that cost – 15 % of it.” 

Bobby Van’s Steakhouse owner Joseph Smith said that soaring inflation and a rise in crime have caused him to lose millions in business between all his restaurants. (Google Maps / Google Maps)

Smith provided the insight into his businesses shortly after it was revealed that inflation cooled on an annual basis for the first time in months in April, but rose more than expected as supply chain constraints, the Russian war in Ukraine and strong consumer demand continued to keep consumer prices running near a 40-year-high. 

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price for everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 8.3% in April from a year ago, below the 8.5% year-over-year surge recorded in March. Prices jumped 0.3% in the one-month period from March.

Those figures were both higher than the 8.1% headline figure and 0.2% monthly gain forecast by Refinitiv economists.

Food prices have jumped 1% over the month, marking the 17th consecutive monthly increase for that index. The largest monthly increases were in dairy (2.5%, the sharply monthly increase since 2007), meats, poultry, fish and eggs (1.4%) and cereal and bakery products (1.1%). 

“Dairy products have been through the roof. Beef prices are going through the roof,” Smith stressed. 


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“There is only so much I can absorb and there is only so much I can put my prices up before I start to get out of hand,” he added, pointing out the complexity of the situation. 

Smith noted that inflation has been a big issue given people haven’t been going out as much as a way to conserve cash as the cost of necessities has been soaring. He stressed that crime in New York City has been another deterrent. 

Overall crime in the city continues to surge, according to the most recent data from the New York City Police Department.

Major crimes were up 41.3% overall year-to-date compared to the same time last year, fueled by jumps in robberies, burglaries, felony assaults and thefts, according to the latest crime statistics through May 8. 

Authorities said last month that many repeat offenders are fueling the uptick in violence.

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“It’s clear what we are confronting: A perception among criminals that there are no consequences, even for serious crime,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a news conference in April.

Smith slammed New York’s bail reform law, which has come under heavy criticism from law enforcement and victims’ advocates, as it allows criminal suspects to be released back onto the streets while they await their court cases. Under the law, courts are prohibited from setting any monetary bail or keeping defendants in custody before trial in almost every type of misdemeanor case, and for a long list of felonies, as well.

Smith noted that “everybody is standing by” and letting the shootings and robberies in the city happen, while the police “can do nothing” given if they catch those responsible, “they release them the next day.” 

“So people are leaving the city by 7 o’clock, especially the younger people, especially the women,” Smith said, noting that his customers “talk about it openly at the bar.” 

He said that he hasn’t shut down any of his eight restaurants yet, but fears he might have no choice given all the hardships. He said that every week he has been assessing the situation.  

“It’s a disaster,” Smith stressed. 

“And also there is a myth going around that everybody is back to work,” he added. “Everyone is not back to work. You have 40% of the workforce back coming into the city.” 


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He noted that all his businesses are steakhouses with different clientele, but his location on 54th Street in Manhattan is directly impacted by the current workforce dynamic. 

“54th Street would have the CEOs, the presidents and stuff from the companies, and they’re in Florida or in the Hamptons,” he noted.