Once again, the progression is bumpy. The Hollywood restaurant is already profitable, but the one in Kendall is only breaking even and An is losing money in Pembroke Pines. At the two struggling locations, An is bringing back the all-you-can-eat specials at $11.95 for lunch and $17.95 for dinner. This time An thinks it can work because his food costs are dramatically lower due to increased buying power.
The good old days when you just opened a restaurant and had a successful business by having good food and service are gone, An said. Now you have to really work at it and adapt to what the location wants. Certain neighborhoods are still struggling.
Jorge Arroyo, 49, had been through this before losing his job in the worst economy since the Great Depression. The forklift operator was laid off in 2008, and was out of work for a year. Unable to pay his bills, he got some relief when his nephew moved into his Miami home and helped pay the bills.
Then came a job offer at a warehouse, and three years worth of steady paychecks. Like the economy, Arroyos personal finances were on the upswing. Until the economy failed him again, and Arroyo lost his second job in four years.
It looks like the economy is getting a little bit better, but I dont see it, Arroyo said from his seat before a computer at a state-funded employment center in northwest Miami.
Next to him was a spiral notebook, with the details of seven jobs he had applied for that day. There are three pages of entries already, and Arroyo had room for just one more before having to turn yet another page in his hunt.
There are so many people applying for everything, he said, looking up from the screen, one of 15 occupied in the center at 79th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue.
The centers director, Delphine Brown, said candidates like Arroyo face a much less discouraging landscape than they did in the depths of the recession.
The last few years have been the hardest in my 19 years, said Brown, who started working at job centers in the early 1990s. Theres been so much uncertainty. The companies were in fear.
Now, the job postings are higher that at any time since the recession started. And its not just the old stand-bys of tourism, retail and healthcare. Were even seeing construction jobs picking up, she said. Thats exciting.
The recession was rough on the Cavalier Hotel, and so was the recovery. But owner Ralph Abravaya remains optimistic.
He thought the worst was behind him after buying the 46-room Ocean Drive hotel in 2002, when the industry was reeling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But court records show hes in a fight with lenders now. August brought a bankruptcy filing for the Cavalier, thanks to an overdue mortgage taken out on the cusp of the recession.
In filings, Abravaya said the hotel makes enough to continue mortgage payments on the $6.5 million loan secured in the middle of 2007. But the lender, BPD, said the hotel wasnt worth enough to refinance the debt when the loan came due in 2010 a time when Abravaya was struggling to pay the bills.
In order to protect ourselves, we had to go into Chapter 11, even though weve never missed a mortgage payment, Abravaya said. Were still making mortgage payments. Its a technical default.