Coivd-19 is one heck of an illness and it is not only taking lives. Just wait and see… as time ebbs on businesses will close and some of your favorite restaurants may or may not be amongst the survivors. You can hope and you can buy local but that won’t stop some places from closing their doors – and here’s why.
Okay, so even if restaurants do open and take all the precautions people have to get there. That may certainly be a deterrent for some folks out there who do not have a car. Public transport, while running, may not be the place that most people want to be right now. So, if restaurants do not have the best walk score, or they require a vehicle to access, then they are at risk of losing customers. Now, you may think there are always Ubers or taxis or that kind of thing… well, that is an added element to a night out for dinner. Taking an Uber or a cab would mean paying out of pocket (and money is tight now for most so that may not be an ideal option) but it also means exposing yourself to yet another person. Suddenly, the restaurants that are very close to your house become way more appealing than those far away and that is just a fact. So, what about those restaurants that are far away? Well, maybe they are close to other people’s homes… But, not every part of town is residential… So suddenly accessibility becomes a key factor in whether or not a restaurant can weather the pandemic storm.
Customers will have to have some serious trust to go into a restaurant or even order pick up or delivery from them. Why? It is a pandemic! People may be uncertain whether or not a restaurant is abiding by the rules of conduct and that may deter them from going to the restaurant, which in turn, would lead businesses to go under. Restaurants are now facing very high standards on behalf of their customers. Customers will want to know, more than ever before, that the chefs cooking their meals are wearing the proper gear so that the food is in no way contaminated or put into sanitary jeopardy. Additionally, customers will want to know that the waiters carrying out their food are also taking the proper precautions. From the time the food is made to the time it is in front of you anything can happen, no? Moreover, owners will likely be pretty strict about mask wearing and glove wearing and that may rub some workers the wrong way. Then you may have situations in which it is kind of the other way around. Maybe the owners are more relaxed about the rules then, say, the employees are. So trust issues may potentially develop causing bad atmospheres and negative working environments. It is important for everyone to be on the same page in order for a re-opening to be executed properly. It is, after all, all about trust. Clients will be expecting more, owners will be expecting more, workers will be expecting more…. More safety, more communication, more trust. So, who can you put your trust in with regards to restaurants in your neighborhood?
It is already hard enough to have consistent and reliable staff members at restaurants, so now, in a pandemic, finding and keeping strong staff members must be no easy feat. These poor restaurants already have so much on their plates (pun intended) that having to also deal with staffing seems ridiculous! From the point of view of a restaurant staff member there are suddenly so many things to consider that may make you less likely to want to keep going into work. They have to think about who they are bringing any potential infection home to. Do they have kids? Do they have a spouse or partner who has a compromising health condition? Do they have a health condition? Like, if you are a chef, manager, a waiter, a bus boy, a bar tender, a hostess, an oyster shucker, or anything like that then you need to think about the risk you are taking in going back to work. Heck, if you had asthma (something that never ever was an issue at work) you may be realizing that now it is a problem and you may not want to be working. So finding staff can be difficult in this time. There have been stories all over the world about people not going into work – whether it was in long care homes or in grocery stores – so why would restaurants be any different? Maybe staff will be gung-ho at the beginning. Maybe they will be keen because they need to get out of the house and make some cash but who’s to say they will keep coming in if the risk rises and a second wave hits. The minute restaurants have one or two drop out staff members and they cannot find more then they run the risk of not being able to keep up with demand. What if they have food to deliver but no one to deliver it? Or they have people coming to the restaurant but not enough willing workers to serve and feed them. Hmmm… there is no knowing what staff members will do right now and that inability to really know for a fact that a restaurant will be able to operate may be too much for some. You can’t run a restaurant if there is no one there to run it and keep the cogs turning.
Okay, so think about all those folks who have kids and will not be able to go out because they can’t and won’t get a babysitter or leave the kids with gran and gramps. Seriously. Date night for moms and dads is going to look very different. Obviously this will depend on the parent and the familial support system around them. Maybe some parents have siblings that they wouldn’t eventually mind leaving their kids with so they can have an escape – but that is not the case for everyone. There are many parents out there who would either hire a sitter in or honestly, just have a grandparent or two take care of kids so they can have a night on the town. With the risk of dying from Covid-19 being higher in our elderly we know that it wouldn’t be wise to be putting them at risk for a seeming frivolity like dinner at a restaurant. Babysitters pose a different kind of risk… they may or may not have been out and about on the town and there is no real knowing who they have seen and where they have been and surely that can freak some parents out. Now, it is clear that restaurants will not be going out of business because they will probably lose a portion of the date night crown but still…. Date nights matter and sometimes those night rack up a big bill! Cocktails to start, an appetizer or two, main meals, desserts, wine, maybe a digestive… Losing the parent date night customers may not be the end of the world but it is none the less one example of a group of people who cannot longer just go out to dinner. Pre-pandemic planning a date night was hard enough – now, in the new pandemic reality it will be even harder. How could it not be?
When this all began and restaurants had to close many of them lost a bunch of inventory. It isn’t everyone that was able to shift to delivery as if nothing happened. Not only that, even those who did move to delivery or pick up right away had to contend with all of the produce and such that they had considering the amount of people they served regularly in the restaurant. So, many many restaurants already took an inventory hit. They had to throw things away. They had to stop buying from suppliers. They had to manage what they had. Maybe that was enough to close some places already. Maybe some places just lost too much of what they had and they no longer have the funds to rebuild and restock for a re-opening? Inventory is also had to manage now, in a reopening, because how much do you restock? There is no protocol for this type of thing; like “when in a pandemic, never fear, just reduce your regular purchasing and stockpiling by 63%”. NO! That kind of very specific manual does not exist! So restaurants need to figure it all out and that can be and will continue to be very hard for most.
Okay, so imagine this. You are a fish restaurant and you always get your fish from a specific fish monger. You have a system. A pandemic occurs. You close your restaurant for a while and then finally it is time to reopen. But, oh no! Your fish monger is not in business anymore or they have yet to reopen. Or, maybe they reopen and everything goes well for a bit but then they have to close because of a Covid-19 outbreak. All of a sudden you have trouble getting your fish supplied and so you cannot make all the food that is actually the whole part of your business. So you think, okay, deep breaths. The next logical step would be to find a new place to sell you the supply you need. What if you can’t because there are none? What if you do but they also close? What if you do and then it is way more expensive and you cannot afford it? Oh no! Then maybe you have to close your restaurant because you cannot actually serve the food that you serve. Supply is everything and supply chains are getting pretty lopsided and topsy-turvy right now. So supply is a reasonable concern and may be the reason places close.
So, it is fair to say that if an outbreak was in fact reported or caught as originating in a restaurant than that restaurant will be in serious trouble. No one would want to go back to the place that infected a ton of people. That’s just natural. It is sad and it sucks for any restaurant that may find itself in that situation in the time that follows, but it is what it is. Furthermore, if and when something like that happens it might scare a whole bunch of us into not ordering from or going to places to eat. So, outbreaks are a major player in the reopening/longevity of a restaurant. Because, maybe a place will reopen (yeah, yeah many places will reopen) but the real question is will they last?
Let’s be real, if an independent restaurant has a very small space with tables crammed together then there will evidently be some issues with resuming business as normal. Normal, as in, pre-pandemic. Business will not be able to have strangers sitting on top of each other. It just is not practical from a health perspective but also from a social perspective. Many people will not want to be that close to people they don’t know. So, will restaurants be putting up plexi-glass barriers? Will that be enough to keep they open and in business? The space issue is huge. There are so many restaurants that are very small and they are in a real bind here. What will they do? There is also the question of lining up outside… How can all restaurants manage this? The thing is that when things are already tight and crammed and there are people lined up out the door then pressure rises and mistakes happen. Unless everyone in the situation is keeping their cool and following the mandated rules to maintain a happy and healthy environment then there is a chance that space, or lack of space, becomes the issue that breaks the camel’s back so to speak.
Just like you restaurants need to pay rent or mortgage. While some governments have put programs in place to help financially not everyone is applicable. Not only that, those bits of aid, while so appreciated, will not, cannot, and do not last forever. So restaurants may close for the sheer fact that they cannot afford to stay open. Eviction is a serious fear for many. Some spots that have high traffic because they are in a downtown area or something like that also have very high rent. So, if they have no traffic they are in serious trouble. There is no amount of take out or delivery that can pay for some places rent. The cost of running may be just too much and not worth it. It is also important to consider that some places may already have been in a tight financial situation – so if there is nothing in the bank then there is nothing to pay rent with. Even if there is some leeway and they only need to pay a portion of the rent for now some places may not even be able to do that. Ouch. Money is a big reason why we will be losing restaurants.
There is one major reason that restaurants my not survive this pandemic and that is fear. People are straight up afraid. Is going to a restaurant worth risking your life? Is ordering in for pick up good enough? If ordering in for pick up or delivery safe? Do we trust the employees or the restaurant? Do we trust the people sitting next to us? There are so many factors. There are so many things to be considered about. Not all of them are necessarily valid either… however, they are enough to scare some folks resulting in fewer people going to restaurants. Because all in all anytime there are many people in one room right now that is cause for some fear or skepticism. Further, that fear and skepticism is actually valid and well placed. So it is really hard to know what is right. The inability to know for sure may cause some folks to just avoid dealing with restaurants at all. A lack of customers means a lack of business and a lack of business means a lack of reason to stay open. This next chapter is sure to be a rough one for most if not all restaurants. Fingers crossed some of them come out of this alive and well.