Restaurateurs are already grappling with supply-chain snarls, labor shortages, and ever-changing red tape. But upcoming openings are being put on ice for a new reason: unusually slow turnaround times for custom-built walk-in refrigerators, an essential piece of kitchen equipment.
Before the pandemic, it took a brisk four weeks to get one. Now the wait can stretch to six months.
When Phillips and his partners were looking to upgrade Ghostburger from a buzzy ghost kitchen inside the Shaw Mexican restaurant Espita to a brick-and-mortar space of its own, sourcing a walk-in became a sticking point. It would add at least two months to the opening date, costing the group $30,000 to $40,000 in rent before the business earned a dime. In the end, Phillips and his partners decided to forgo a new space entirely. They shuttered Espita and turned it into Ghostburger.
Meanwhile, it took nine months for the walk-in to arrive at Clarendon’s breezy West Coast–inspired Bar Ivy, pushing back its launch by more than a year.
The reason for the delays? A shortage of the chemicals necessary to make the insulating foams that fill a refrigerator’s walls.
Restaurateurs are adapting, anticipating the longer lead time to score a fridge. Yuan and Carey Tang, who own the 14th Street tasting-menu restaurant Rooster & Owl, were originally planning to open Ellie Bird, a family-friendly cafe in West Falls Church, last November. Now they’re hoping for February. Part of the reason for the delay was new snags: finding electrical panels and HVAC components that used to be easy to procure before the pandemic.
This article appears in the January 2023 issue of Washingtonian.