Former “Big Mamas” owners discuss challenges of restaurant business

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The now closed Big Mama’s Kitchen in Chesterville.

The mother and daughter duo that ran the popular but short-lived Chesterville restaurant called “Big Mamas Kitchen” are speaking out about the challenges of being in the restaurant business. Big Mamas announced its permanent closure on January 15. The restaurant’s owner – and her mother, with whom she ran the business – wished not to have their names in print. 

Big Mamas had many loyal customers, being located in a prime spot on Chesterville’s Main Street, next to the pharmacy and across from the town’s only gas station. 

“What we found hardest was the rent, and the cost of the food,” the Times heard from the Big Mama’s duo. “It’s everything – the bills have gone up!” Increases to the business’ electric bill and gas bill also impacted the bottom line significantly. Ultimately, the business was losing money, with every penny being made going straight to bills. 

One lesser-known expense that the owners encountered was bank fees associated with customers who pay with credit cards. Many consumers don’t realize that rewards programs associated with major credit cards are fully paid for by fees charged to the business owners who accept the cards as a form of payment. The Big Mama’s duo didn’t feel like they had the option not to accept credit cards in a digital world, but the associated fees hit them where it hurt. 

Many customers – who are undoubtedly feeling the pressures of the current economy as well – were seeking deals. The Big Mama’s team tried very hard to deliver in this regard, offering a 16” pizza for just $19. This deal resulted in a financial loss, but was intended to bring customers in. Unfortunately, the deal was too good and ate away at profits. 

Now, several weeks after Big Mama’s ceased operations, its former owner and her mother are now doing everything possible to avoid a consumer proposal or bankruptcy as they continue to make payments on debts that the business incurred. 

It wasn’t just costs of food, rent, and bank fees that hurt the restaurant’s bottom line. A large deep fryer fire shut the business down for a week due to the fear and trauma it caused to the restaurant team (not to mention the replacement costs of the fryer). 

Plans for the future for the former Big Mama’s duo include possibly reopening the restaurant, but in a more populated area. They reported that their former location has already been leased to someone who intends to try his own hand at the restaurant business. The Big Mama’s Kitchen duo wishes him the best of luck. Meanwhile, their experience has taught them about the difficulties of running a small business in a very tough economy, not just locally, but across Canada. 

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