New York City diners dwindling due to higher cost of living

Life in the New York City Diner business is nonstop.

"We are open 19 hours a day, we open six o'clock in the morning, close at one o'clock in the morning," said Frank Tsiamtsiouris, who opened the Metro Diner on 100th and Broadway in 1989.

On an average day at Metro diner, he says 700 cups of coffee are poured, 150 burgers are flipped and some 1200 eggs cracked.

Business is good, but not nearly as good as it once was.

"When the rent is 20% of your earnings, your gross earnings, it's not easy to survive,"  

Tsiamtsiouris said.

Tsiamtsiouris has been in the diner business nearly four decades and now runs a total of four diners. Over the years, he's seen many of his competitors forced out because of skyrocketing rents.

Indeed, diners in New York City seem to become rarer by the week.

One of the latest outposts to fall victim to a rent hike was Chinatown's iconic Cup and Saucer. After almost 30 years in business, it served its last cup of coffee last month.

Tsiamtsiouris now pays almost 23 times more for City Diner, his 90th street and Broadway location, than he did when he first opened it in 1982.

"The rent at City Diner was when I first took the place was $1750. The rent today is including real estate tax $40,000 a month," he said.

It's not just rising rents that are pinching diners, the cost of everything is going up from credit card fees to the price of the food itself.

At Viand Cafe 30 blocks south on Broadway, one of the owners, Erick Kontojiannis said on top of rising rents and food costs, the business is bracing for the new $15/hour minimum wage requirements

 "The upcoming increases that will be coming in the next few years will make things a challenge for us without a doubt," he said.

Viand and the other diners are making modifications to cut costs and attract new customers. In a sign of the times, many now offer gluten free and vegan items alongside the classic burgers and fries, and they're slimming down the extensive menu options.

"With food costs and all things going, with everything rapidly increasing, you need to downsize the menu a little bit," Kontojiannis said.

But while some diners may start to offer say, just a dozen sandwich varieties instead of 18, they don't plan to cut back on the what customers value most: reliability with a heaping side of nostalgia.

 "If we offer what the customer wants and the customer keeps on going, I think we should be fine," Kontojiannis said.

 "I don't think the diner is necessarily going to die," said Tsiamtsiouris "I think it will evolve, as long as the management evolves."