How can indie restaurants survive the coronavirus?
Many restaurants are struggling to pivot to pickup and delivery as major cities have temporarily outright banned dining-in.
While delivery and pickup are expected to surge as Americans social-distance at home, given the loss of dining-in, takeout isn’t expected to cover the fixed costs of labor and rent for many. Shifting to to-go often requires reinvented menus, lower prices and turning servers into couriers.
“There is no way delivery and takeout can work to sustain a business, unless your business was already designed for that,” Jon Shook, chef and co-owner of Jon & Vinny’s and other high-profile restaurants in L.A., told the Los Angeles Times.
Some relief was promised as Grubhub and other third-party delivery aggregators temporarily waived commission fees. But many food establishments are scoffing at eventually having to pay from 15 percent to as high as 30 percent per order to cover deliveries. Some restaurants are urging customers to call directly to avoid those fees.
For many restaurants allowed to stay open, new laws restricting hours and/or the number of dine-in patrons are crippling revenues. Traffic was already dropping due to creeping fears over public places.
Most restaurants are taking extra safety precautions in part to give consumers’ confidence, including requiring masks and gloves for staff and taking their temperature before shifts. Those able to offer dining-in have added vigilant cleaning practices and other measures.
Despite all the efforts to remain in business, numerous reports describe workers being laid off because restaurant owners can no longer pay them.
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Olmsted & Maison Yaki have been the projects of a life time for us. The support we have received over these near four years from our community, industry, and media have been life altering. And then over the last few days we were forced to layoff our entire staff, almost 70 employees. These are the people that make Olmsted & Maison Yaki what they are. Unemployment benefits are sub-minimum wage. Please help us to support them with disaster relief that is no where to be found from our government, as of now. All contributions over $100 will receive a free ticket to our Re-opening Celebration, date TBD of course. 100% of the proceeds will go to our staff. Link in Bio. With Love, Max, Greg, & Mike
With little communication from officials on bailouts for small businesses, scores of restaurants are launching drives on crowdfunding sites, with many foremost supporting employees. Many are setting up virtual tip jars through pay apps like Venmo and PayPal.
In Chicago, where a two-week moratorium on in-person dining is in place, The Beacon Tap caught wide coverage for offering a free roll of toilet paper with a delivery or takeout order.
“It’s scary for a lot of people,” general manager Tommy Riemer told NBC Chicago. “They say two weeks. We all know it’s not going to be two weeks.”
- To Stay Afloat, the Restaurant Business Clings to ‘Contactless Delivery’ – The New York Times
- Suburban Chicago Restaurant Offers Free Roll of Toilet Paper With – NBC Chicago
- Coronavirus: Restaurant reservations plunge, but fast food is doing fine – USA Today
- Restaurants are pivoting to takeout and delivery. Will it be enough to survive? – Los Angeles Times
- Grubhub and Major Cities Across the U.S. Launch Economic Relief Effort up to $100 Million for Independent Restaurants and Delivery Partners Impacted by COVID-19 – Grubhub
- Supporting the restaurant industry through an uncertain season – Uber
- Supporting Local Businesses and Communities in a Time of Need – Doordash
- Postmates Unveils Measures For Couriers And Merchants In Response To COVID-19 – Postmates
- Save America’s Restaurants – Change.org
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What suggestions would you have for local restaurants attempting to weather the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak? Is shifting to a to-go and/or delivery model a necessity, at least in the short term?