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Inflation's impact: How high costs are hurting landscapers, animal shelters and restaurants

Animal shelters, landscaping companies and barbecue restaurants in Texas have all been hurt by inflation in different ways. This is how they've been hit the hardest.

DALLAS — Inflation is hitting so many parts of the country in multiple ways. The cost of gas, food and most other goods and services increased again in May, pushing inflation to a four-decade high.

Consumer prices surged 8.6% last month from a year earlier, faster than April’s year-over-year increase of 8.3%, the Labor Department said Friday. The new inflation figure, the biggest increase since December 1981.

And when you talk to North Texas business owners, they all explain differently how inflation affects how they do their work daily.

Cranking the lawnmower

Mitch McGowan owns Garland's DOTDIRT Organic Landscapes and has been in the landscape business for more than 30 years. His company is 100% organic and usually are booked about 90 days in advance.

"I build fences and decks and patios, arbors and outdoor kitchens," McGowan said. "[Inflation] is impacting us hugely."

McGowan said the cost for labor has gone up 30-35% in the last year and a half. He recently had a fencing job in May that cost $4,000 more than it would have two years ago. The price of pipe is up 30% since this past January, McGowan said. The sprinkler systems McGowan offers have increased by about $1,000 since November 2021.

McGowan said he's had to implement more signing bonuses to stay staffed enough to get all his jobs done.

Credit: Jay Wallis
A DOTDIRT Organic Landscapes employee works on the lawn of one of the company's customers.

"And I'm not making any more money," McGowan said. "I'm just trying to still get the business."

McGowan said his team was having a lot of difficulties simply getting the products and materials needed for jobs, including treated wood in 2021.

"This year, all of my prices are only good for one week," McGowan said. "They used to be good for a year. I've never encountered, let's just say in over 50, and I have never seen this inflation."

Often times, McGowan's customers are impacted by the rising prices as well. These are the phone calls McGowan said can be tough to make.

"It absolutely is challenging because I have to make the call saying, 'Well, it's 5% higher or it's 10% higher,'" McGowan said. "Some people are understanding. Some people are not. And some people are removing their projects because the price has to increase that much. And that's not with any labor increase. That's just materials."

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Finding pets a home

The Humane Society of North Texas was founded in 1905 and is the oldest animal welfare organization in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. The non-profit provides services such as pet adoptions, low-cost spay and neuter surgeries and vaccinations, returning lost pets to their owners, cruelty investigations and humane euthanasia. 

The Humane Society of North Texas operates five pet adoption centers in Tarrant and Kaufman County as well as four PetSmart Cat Adoption Centers and an equine and livestock ranch located in Johnson County.

Cassie Davidson is the director of communications, marketing and public relations for Humane Society of North Texas. She said her non-profit has simply had difficulty getting the medicine and material necessary for the shelters.

"The first thing that comes to mind is just the exponential cost of care for the pets that we are currently housing and taking care of," Davidson said.

Credit: Humane Society of North Texas

From 2021 to 2022, the non-profit's entry-level wages have increased by more than 20%. Parvo tests, feline triple tests and heartworm tests have increased 15-65%. Transportation to and from shelters, to and from offsite events and to and from stores where the non-profit adopts cats has increased by 80%. 

While practically the price of all shelter food and supplies have gone up, Davidson said cat litter boxes specifically have gone up 100% and are hard to find.

"With supply chain issues compounded with the increase, in particular, our cat litter boxes have increased by 100%," Davidson said. "Matched with that, we can't get them. They're slim pickings."

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Since the Humane Society of North Texas is a non-profit, it operates on grants and donations. Davidson said her shelters are in need of many resources.

"We have an entire team dedicated to grant funding and just trying to find as many grants as we can to supplement where we can and when we can because of the challenges with inflation," Davidson said.

The Humane Society of North Texas is hosting its sixth annual MEGA Adoption Event June 11 and 12 at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The non-profit currently has more than 1,200 pets in its care, many that will be available for adoption at this event.

Credit: Humane Society of North Texas

Smoked meats

Dallas-based Dickey's Barbecue Pit opened its first restaurant in 1941. It currently has more than 550 locations in 44 states and is known for its slow-smoked barbecue.

Practically all aspects of the business are being hurt from inflation, according to Dickey's CEO Laura Dickey.

"The inflation is being literally fueled by the fuel costs," Dickey said. "America runs on trucks, right? Everything that we need and use in the restaurant comes to us on a truck."

Dickey said the cost of chicken is up 103%, bread is up 11.5%, and ribs are up 50% from last year. The one type of protein Dickey said has remained somewhat stable is brisket.

In terms of the cost of non-food goods and fuel, that is up 30-32% compared to last year.

"So in a 15-20% margin business, we're over that line," Dickey said. "Even when we're seeing those stabilized prices on some items like brisket, it's being tacked on with the incredibly huge inflation in shipping, in trucking, and in labor."

Credit: Jay Wallis

Dickey's has eight proteins that are a part of the food the restaurants offer. So when one protein starts to rise in price, Dickey said the management and marketing teams try to focus on selling and promoting the other meats.

"When chicken is up that 103%, we can focus on our brisket," Dickey said. "When brisket or pork is high, we can swing back to our chicken wings or to our artisan sausage. So we have some flexibility with our menu, but it is definitely a challenge."

Dickey's has also had to completely change up its marketing calendar this year because the restaurant's leaders are having to focus more on their core items and meats since they can't depend on the supply chain for non-core items.

Dickey said at this point in the year, her restaurant would have already had three or four limited-time offers. She said her team has cut most of those out.

"The best-laid plans have gone right in the trash, and it is very much dictated by what is happening in the commodities market," Dickey said. "It definitely makes us be creative."

Credit: Jay Wallis
A Dickey's employee prepares an order for a customer at the original Dickey's Barbecue Pit location on North Central Expressway in Dallas.

A lot of Dickey's customers are also starting to use more coupons and order the deals of the day, according to Dickey. Customers are also more frequently taking home leftovers to get the most out of their meals.

"We're just simply past the point of even breaking even with these high sustained prices, but we're feeling it all over the place," Dickey said. "We love what we do. We love brisket. We've been here for 81 years. We will weather the storm. We've had lots of different challenges under lots of different presidents, under lots of different economic conditions. So we know we can do it."

One aspect that Dickey said was surprising to her is the fact that the restaurant's third-party delivery income has actually gone up recently. Dickey said many customers tell her team they prefer the fixed price with delivery costs compared to having to deal with fueling up at the gas pump.

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