Amid the pandemic, inflation and staff shortage, Ray’s Drive Inn’s dine-in finally back open

Staff shortage kept things curbside for a year and 8 months

SAN ANTONIO – The effects of the global supply chain crisis and inflation are trickling down to the meals you eat locally. While food costs continue to increase, Ray’s Drive Inn is keeping their prices locked in -- for now.

“Everything’s gone up, but not enough for us to increase our prices, I feel,” said María López-Rambo, co-owner of Ray’s and daughter of the late Arturo López.

After almost two years operating curbside, it’s finally back to business inside the home of the original puffy taco. The West Side restaurant announced via Instagram that it would welcome customers back starting Nov. 18.

López-Rambo said the hustle and bustle since re-opening inside brings back memories of her as a young girl and seeing her parents operate the restaurant.

“Hearing the (servers), seeing our customers and just the whole thing inside here, it’s amazing,” López-Rambo said. “It feels great. I feel my dad is smiling from above. I’m so happy.”

It’s been a steady supply of crispy dogs and puffy tacos for customers and puffed-up receipts for the owners.

“Our meat has gone up at least 25%, and that is a big part of what we fill our puffy (tacos) with. So, that’s (an) extreme (increase),” López-Rambo said.

Although not as high, the price of their main ingredient, masa harina, or maize dough, has also gone up.

Prices of most goods continue to rise across the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The Consumer Price Index, which keeps an eye on consumer and retail goods prices, shows that food prices have also increased by roughly 1%.

The ongoing pandemic has forced shutdown or slower operations, causing supply chain issues that López-Rambo has also experienced.

“How much (we) get (is also) killing us,” López-Rambo said.

For now, customers won’t have to worry about a bigger bill.

“Everything’s gone up, but not enough for us to increase our prices, I feel,” López-Rambo said.

Customers may likely experience longer wait times as the puffy taco team can only handle parties of 5 or fewer.

“We’re still short at least 10 to 15 employees,” López-Rambo said. “I still need a hostess. I still need my busboys. We still need a few more (employees) in the kitchen (for) both day and night (shifts).”

The grand reopening is scheduled for mid-December when the establishment is expected to allow bigger parties and 100% customer capacity.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.