The perfect storm: How crime and inflation surges are hammering a decades-old New Orleans restaurant
NEW ORLEANS – The Big Easy’s ongoing crime wave has scared away regulars at a local pancake house as inflation eats into the decades-old restaurant’s profits. The one-two punch has left a co-owner worried that her business will collapse.
“We’re having a really tough time right at this moment,” Betsy’s Pancake House co-owner Mary Murdock told Fox News. “It’s a day-by-day thing where you have to make this much money in order to pay them bills, and if you don’t make that then you are in trouble.”
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New Orleans has grappled with a violent crime surge since 2019, with carjackings and homicides more than doubling in the three-year period, according to the New Orleans City Council’s crime dashboard. Inflation has also been an ongoing problem for some business owners, with food prices increasing 11.3% compared to January last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We have lost a lot of regular customers,” Murdock said. “They won’t come into the city.”
Murdock said customers from outside of the city wrote on Facebook that they stopped going to the restaurant because they were afraid of New Orleans’ crime. The restaurant co-owner attributed the violence to more anger and access to guns among the city’s youth.
“When we were kids, if you had a fight with somebody … next day you were friends again,” Murdock said. “But it’s not like that anymore because now they bring guns.”
And Murdock, a New Orleans native, is no stranger to violence. She took over the restaurant in 2008 after her mom, Elizabeth “Betsy” McDaniel, was beaten during a home burglary. McDaniel died from her injuries two days after the attack.
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“She was my best friend,” Murdock said as her eyes filled with tears. “She would want me to be here.”
Murdock said people have suggested she move locations to avoid the city’s crime surge, but she refused.
“Here, you can feel my mom’s spirit,” Murdock said. “She wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
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Murdock has accommodated employee concerns about the city’s crime surge. Some of her staff worried about coming in early while it was still dark, so Murdock allowed them to work later shifts. Some employees come in as a group to avoid walking alone.
“You gotta look out for each other,” Murdock said. She added that her employees overall felt safe in the neighborhood but remained vigilant.
New Orleans briefly earned the title of the nation’s murder capital in September after recording the most homicides per capita among major U.S. cities. Jackson, Mississippi, unseated The Big Easy, but it still recorded 266 homicides in 2022.
In January, three people were shot and killed in Mid-City, just blocks from Betsy’s. Some customers have asked about security on the premises, Murdock said.
“We couldn’t afford a security guard,” Murdock said. “We would have to increase the prices to do that.”
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“And when you increase the prices it makes it harder for people to come,” Murdock continued. She said the restaurant already raised prices due to high inflation.
Overall inflation was up 6.4% year-over-year in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The price of eggs spiked 70% on an annual basis.
“The price of eggs is outrageous,” Murdock said. “We’re having a really tough time.”
One New Orleans business owner told a local Fox affiliate in October he didn’t want to live in the city anymore due to consistent burglaries and increased rent at his restaurant. But Murdock said she’s determined to keep Betsy’s afloat.
“We scrape to the bottom,” Murdock said. “Don’t waste nothing.”
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Murdock is considering opening the restaurant on Sundays and closing on Wednesdays to address profitability concerns.
“You have to restructure,” Murdock said. “You have to think differently. Whatever it takes.”
To hear more from Murdock on her business’ struggles with crime and high prices, click here.
Hannah Ray Lambert and Ramiro Vargas contributed to the accompanying video.