Of the four restaurants Rick McQuaide owns across several counties in Western Pennsylvania, one is barely making a profit, two are losing money and the fourth has been "temporarily" closed for far longer than he ever anticipated.
The 58-year-old small businessman from nearby Cambria County has one word for why he finds himself in this position — and it isn't the pandemic.
"It is inflation," he said flatly.
McQuaide — whose family has also been in the trucking and logistics industry for 70 years — said what frustrates him is the reaction coming from the White House and much of the national media on the severity of the problem.
"They seemingly shrug it off — maybe that happens because they've never owned a small business or maybe because they have jobs where they can absorb the costs with less pain," he said.
"They are wildly out of touch with the struggles of the average American and small businessperson," McQuaide adds. "That isn't political, that is reality."
He pointed to Biden downplaying the Labor Department report released Wednesday that showed inflation rose at the fastest pace in four decades in December (7 percentage points) as an example of how disconnected he is from the people he serves. Biden said "we are making progress" and claimed there was a reduction in inflation in the past month.
McQuaide isn't seeing it. He said there isn't an aspect of his business that has not been upended by inflation. Fewer people are applying for jobs, driving up wages. Then there are the prices of food and fuel.
"Everything has gone up and everything has gone up extraordinarily," he said.
That is, of course, if you can get the things you need.
"The supply chain that delivers to us, our primary vendors, like US Foods or Sysco, are running out of things because they have a shortage of labor to deliver the food and the manufacturers that produce the food also have a shortage of labor," he explained.
McQuaide's restaurants in Johnstown, Murrysville and Ligonier are famous for their crab cakes, but he had to stop selling them because they became so cost-prohibitive to his customers.
"A case of premium jumbo lump crab normally cost us $100 a case; over the past few months that cost has spiked to $600 for that same case."
It's not the only item he has had to take off the menu.
"We've had to change menu items to lower-cost things or things that we can get readily available," McQuaide said. "And we just don't have the same variety that we used to."
He says the cost of inflation "is not just killing our industry, it is hurting families as well." McQuaide thinks it would help if Biden and other politicians got out of Washington and saw what's happening to small-town Main Street.
"If they saw it from my perspective, if they spent a week in my shoes, or in consumers' shoes, that might persuade them to address these issues with empathy and experience rather than dismiss the urgency of the crisis," McQuaide said, "a crisis I don't see ending anytime soon."
Salena Zito has held a long, successful career as a national political reporter. Born and bred in Pittsburgh, she worked for the Pittsburgh Tribute-Review for 11 years. She has interviewed every U.S. president and vice president since 1992, as well as top leaders in Washington, D.C., including secretaries of state, speakers of the House and U.S. Central Command generals. Salena joined the New York Post in September 2016. She acts as a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. Read Salena Zito's Reports — More Here.