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Colorado Mexican restaurant struggling amid inflation, workforce shortages

Inflation, workforce shortages: Littleton restaurant struggling to survive
Inflation, workforce shortages: Littleton restaurant struggling to survive 01:58

It's been just over four years since the start of the COVID pandemic, and some Colorado businesses are still struggling in its wake. That includes one restaurant in Littleton whose owners are doing everything they can to keep it in business.


The owners at Carlos Miguel's Mexican Bar and Grill say their sales are down about 40% since the pandemic began. Times are tough for a number of reasons.

It has been hard to hire employees, the business is still hurting because of inflation and higher costs and having to raise the minimum wage by Colorado state law has all taken its toll on the business.

"Everything is super expensive. You name it. Of course, the minimum wage went up, too. They didn't ask us if we have the money to increase the minimum wage, but regardless, if you have the money or not, you still have to do it," said Gina Sedano, one of the co-owners.

Sedano and her husband began opening Carlos Miguel's restaurants in 2008. Throughout the years, they opened 10 restaurants, but have since closed nine of them.

The last three, they made the hard decision to close about two years after the pandemic started.

Sedano said it's sad, but right now they're just trying to keep their only location alive.

"The future of this restaurant, we're going to keep going until we can. Hopefully we're going to be successful," said Sedano.

"We've been trying to stick it out, hang in there, and provide for the community and customers. ... We're just doing our best to maintain and stay afloat," said Jordan Black, the assistant manager.

Black has been working at the restaurant for about 10 years. He said the owners have even taken on doing deliveries on their own time.

He also mentioned a lot of their regulars are also older customers, who have been coming to the restaurant less frequently since the pandemic started too. Customers have shared with him that they don't want to get sick, and prices are still increasing.

"Prices definitely went up, everything is pricey these days. So it's definitely hard, and it's been a rough couple of years. But that's just why we're trying to promote things and get the word out around here.

Now, they're doing everything they can to get the word out about their business.

"We all do our part to make sure we stay open, but it definitely has been worrying at times because some days, it's maybe two customers. It's rough, but they still keep coming," said Black.

Some of the other Carlos Miguel's locations that have closed are in Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch and Colorado Springs. Part of their plan is getting customers from those areas to visit the Littleton location. They added, while it has not been easy, they're hoping there's a light at the end.

"Some of these people I used to have and serve as they were little kids when we opened, and now some of them work for us. So I think it means a lot to the community," said Sedano.

"You have your good days and your bad days, and weekends are definitely where we're the busiest. So every day is not a great day, but you just hope and pray for the best," said Black.

The restaurant is now looking forward to the warmer months and days like Cinco de Mayo and Mothers and Fathers day, which usually brings in more business.

A spokesperson with the City of Littleton says they've heard from many businesses over the past year who say the workforce and inflation have been huge challenges. Since then, the city launched what's called the "Open Rewards" app in September, which incentivizes customers in the community to shop local. According to the city, 72.6% of users state the app influenced their decision to shop local.

In 2024, the city will be publishing a business survey to get feedback from businesses and what challenges they're currently facing.

They also mentioned the Economic Development team continues to re-evaluate programs the city offers to meet the needs of businesses. 

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