2023—despite the amount of great Long Beach restaurants, both new and old, releasing great dishes and the coming of nearly 25 new spaces this year—was a year of immense struggles and it is means that multiple Long Beach restaurants for sale will and are popping up. They already include some of the city’s biggest food names, including Seabirds Kitchen, Little Coyote, Saltwater Deck, and more.
“The restaurant climate across the country is dim,” said Luis Navarro of the Navarro Restaurant Group, which owns Lola’s Mexican Cuisine and The Social List. “I think that the inflation epidemic has really taken a toll on Americans—and their inability to spend as much at restaurants has not given the ‘return’ that has been so openly advertised across the industry.”
2023 by the numbers shows Long Beach restaurants—and restaurants across the region—are struggling
“When we’re specifically talking about Long Beach, 2023 has been the hardest year of our 15-year operation in regard to costs, ingredients availability, staffing, wage increases and the list goes on,” Navarro said. “The ultimate killer has been inflation and the skyrocketing cost of operating. We really need our politicians to wake up; we need help.”
Navarro then goes on to spout the statistics: The restaurant industry employs 13.9 million people, generating $52.8 billion since 2012.
When it comes to region, the numbers are stark: According to the 2023 State of Restaurants report for the Los Angeles region, profit margins have dropped 1.6% across a single year, when the county met the national average of 11% in 2021 and averaged 9.4% in 2022.
Outside of servers, chefs, and dishwashers, every other position inside a restaurant has seen significant drops from 2021 to 2022 across the Los Angeles region: line cooks, prep cooks, managers, hosts, and bartenders were all positions restaurants were shorted on across the year, with some—line cooks and prep cooks—seeing a 20% shortage year-over-year.
“Our expenses have increased considerably in the past year,” John Hensely, owner of Lark Cake Shop in Los Angeles, told TouchBistro for the annual report. “There’s not one expense category that hasn’t gone up. Payroll, gas, and the cost of goods sold are our biggest expenses.”
This expenses especially include the cost of food: The Los Angeles region spent 50% more on food cost from 2021 to 2022—more than any other major metro in the country, including New York (45%), Chicago (32%), Dallas (46%), and Miami (41%).
This is echoed in James Beard Foundation’s just-released State of the Industry 2023 report, where nearly a quarter of respondents said their restaurant experienced a “bad” or outright “terrible” year.
Dana Buchanan, longtime co-ower of Prnimal Alchemy Catering with her husband, Chef Paul Buchanan, said those average numbers don’t even approach the common small restaurant profit margin.
“It’s bad out there,” Buchanan said. “When I tell people that a good profit for restaurants is 4% net-over-net, which means $40,000 for the owners at the end of the year with $1 million in sales, I don’t think people really understand what that means.”
Will 2024 be the ‘great reset’ for Long Beach restaurants? The list of places (so far) up for sale
Some of the city’s biggest food names are up for sale. Some owners won’t even comment on it; some are saying it’s a consideration; others are saying it’s not about giving up but surviving without losing it all.
Here are the restaurants currently up for sale:
975 E. 4th St.
Asking price: $295,000
Owner Stephanie Morgan—whose Seabirds space has largely come to define elevated, contemporary vegan food in Long Beach after she decided to create a second, larger location after her flagship space in Costa Mesa—has said it most bluntly: “It’s a struggle out here—we’ve been struggling since COVID and we haven’t been able to come back in the way we need.”
Not only will Morgan be closing her Los Feliz location this month, she will hold onto her Costa Mesa location—for now.
“I don’t want to leave— but we just can’t make it work.”
2630 E. Ocean Blvd.
Asking price: $399,000
While owner Amy (whose last name has been asked to be redacted) have said that the sale is “just a consideration,” the (honestly solid) sandwich and breakfast burrito joint has long been considered a gem since it opened mid pandemic.
Shortly before Gaucho Beach opened down the way in Alamitos, both part of the City’s upgrades in beach amenities, Saltwater Deck offered the city’s first fully-on-the-beach concept in years. It has, indeed, seen its fair share of frustrations, particularly when the City opted to begin a long-delayed construction project directly in front of the business.
2950 Clark Ave.
Asking price: $149,999
Steady Brewing, the East Long Beach brewery that opened in 2018, never seemed to connect with Long Beach beer audiences in the way that Beachwood, Ambitious, or even the recently ISM have—and that is likely leading to its sale so owners can focus on their recently opened Orange County operations. Owners have not returned request for comment.
2118 E. 4th / 3500 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal
Asking price: $998,000
Owners Jack Leahy and Jonathan Strader—the latter of whom moved to Portugual in 2022 and the former returning to his roots in Los Angeles proper—took a step back in late 2022 after shuttering their pasta concept and in order to “not step on the toes of current management.”
Steel Cup Cafe
2201 N. Lakewood Blvd. #A
Asking price: $350,000
Boasting of the two alcohol permits it has attached to its business—a Type 41 license that covers basic beer and wine and a much more coveted Type 58 caterer permit that allows the caterer to serve alcohol at off-site events—Steel Cup Cafe has long been a staple in the Artcraft Manor district by the traffic circle.
420 Cherry Ave.
Asking price: $167,000
Opening in the smack dab middle of summer during the smack dab middle of the pandemic in 2020 at 420 Cherry Ave., V Burger owners and husband-and-wife team Paula and Alex Armstrong have been building a name in the vegan scene as the city’s best vegan burger—and like Saltwater Deck, they are “just considering” the option as they curious as to the worth of the space.
“We have six more years on our lease—and if we got a really great offer, we would maybe take it.”
Dickie’s BBQ (franchise)
421 W. Broadway, #521
Asking price: $299,000
The middling barbecue chain that franchises out its location opened its first Long Beach location in 2017 when the Gallery 421 residential complex began leasing its commercial spaces quickly, with Starbucks, Jimmy John’s, and eventually Panini Kabob Grill all moving into the space.