The state of the Wichita restaurant business in the summer of 2009 is troubled. Aviation layoffs hang like a cloud over consumer confidence. The minimum wage is up, increasing employer costs. Free- spending diners have become cost- and health-conscious.
The result: Most Wichita restaurants say business remains down between 10 and 20 percent.
"It's a whole different game right now," said Poncho Lujano, who manages the Felipe's Mexican Restaurant chain in Wichita.
"This time last year everybody had a job and nobody was leaving town because gas was so expensive."
Restaurateurs have been absorbing one blow after another to their business plans for the past 15 months, said Don Sayler, president of the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
Consumer spending began to shrink as gas spiked near $4 a gallon last summer, triggering a chain of events that restaurateurs won't recover from soon, analysts say.
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