WILL THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY SURVIVE AND RECOVER POST COVID-19

My name is Chef George Krumov. I have 22 years of industry experience in both, private and public sector, including owning a restaurant in the past, and 14 years of online presence. I wanted to make the title of this article “How your restaurant to survive and recover post Covid-19”, however no one really knows how to right now. I have a few ideas, and I will give them below, but I don’t know whether this will be enough.

Will the restaurant industry survive?

I just read a couple of days ago that when restaurants are allowed to open it will be with only 50% of the seating capacity, social distancing must be followed, some extra sanitizing measures were mentioned, and bartenders must be wearing a mask or work behind a screen. Also, no dining on the bar would be allowed.

Having read this, I think that it will be very difficult for most restaurants to survive even in the short term. Sorry to be pessimistic, but people go out to enjoy themselves, not to be pushed around and treated like they are contagious. Who wants to talk to a masked bartender after all?

The economy will shed a lot of jobs and sorry to say it, but good jobs will be few and far in between. If you are running a small restaurant you may be better positioned to survive in the medium and long term. The short term will be difficult for all, due to possible feelings of anger and resentment that may lead to a lack of motivation to keep going in this. Small restaurants and eateries may be able to survive by laying off a few employees, change their business model giving more importance to take-out, probably taking a good look at their food cost, reducing the size of their menues and shopping for groceries more often instead of ordering through food suppliers.

Bigger restaurants will be less favorably positioned to survive under those conditions. A big restaurant or a franchise, let’s say like Kelsey’s or Boston Pizza can afford to lay off a few employees, but in the large pool of employees who work there it would hardly make a big difference in the payroll. If they lay off more people, then service will suffer.

With the majority of sales in the restaurant industry coming during the weekend, the rule for 50% capacity of seats will make a huge difference. One can afford to do that during Monday-Thursday, but Friday and Saturday nights it will hurt.

I used to own a small 36-seat sushi bar, and if I was still there I believe that I would be perfectly positioned to survive this crisis, unless of course I would succumb to the resentment and reduced motivation that I mentioned above. I would be perfectly fine with only 18 seats and take-out, by working doubles and doing my own shopping. That was what I was doing anyways, that’s why my payroll and food cost were very good. Thankfully, I’m not there to try it and see if I am correct, but I do have a lot of sympathy for all who are still working hard in the private sector and pouring their hearts out in their work to make a living.

Small places with involved and resilient owners that can make changes fast and think quick on their feet can survive and thrive down the road, while for big restaurants and franchises the future may not be the same again. Right now we are in the stage when after a deep cut one doesn’t feel the pain right away. Wait until the pain is felt in the economy when the relief money dries up, and then unemployment takes off and then we will know for sure what is the future of the restaurant industry. One thing is for sure. It won’t be back to normal, and when eventually it is back to normal, it won’t be the normal we know.

I wish you all the best.

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