How Restaurants are Pivoting to Survive COVID-19

After the novel coronavirus first appeared in the United States in February 2020, federal and state governments took quick action to protect public health by ordering the closure of millions of businesses as early as mid-March. While this has devastated many industries and small businesses, it appears the restaurant industry has suffered the most from the forced closures.

Almost overnight, restaurant owners had to adapt to a drive-thru, delivery, or take-out model only if they hoped to weather the crisis. Below are several tips from the trenches on the creative ways restaurants are surviving until the day when staff can welcome customers back in person.

Some Restaurant Owners Are Choosing to Wait

Not all restaurant owners are eager to swing open their doors when they get the official okay from their city’s mayor or state’s governor. Some, like the owner of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco, have significant concerns about a possible second wave of the coronavirus coinciding with flu season in the fall of 2020. 

Instead of reopening, they are using this time to hire additional staff, clean and disinfect their restaurant, and set up safe social distancing measures for employees and staff. Mister Jiu’s will continue to offer take-out until the owner feels comfortable with a reopen.

Unfortunately, owners of Chinese restaurants faced discrimination before any government official ever order them to close. This is most likely due to the origination of the virus in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Fear, anxiety, and misinformation caused people to make many false assumptions about Chinese restaurants and Asian people in general. 

That meant these restaurants were among the first to suffer a decline in business. This is a unique obstacle that owners of these restaurants must overcome along with the dozens of other challenges of remaining financially solvent during the crisis.

Suspending Payments to Creditors

Although the federal government quickly made funds available to business owners through the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program, the quick turnaround and millions of applicants cause major delays and inefficiency. That meant many restaurant owners didn’t receive funds for eight weeks and some still have no money coming in. 

Recognizing this stress, some restaurant owners have opted to contact their creditors and arrange to discontinue paying their bills until they have income again. They have reported widespread cooperation as most creditors aren’t in the position to initiate collection efforts right now anyway.

Discounts on Takeout Orders

At Z & Y Restaurant in San Francisco, owner Chef Han decided to express gratitude to customers and the community by offering a 15 percent discount on all takeout orders. This will remain in effect until Z & Y can implement all guidelines from the California Department of Health to safely reopen. 

Restaurant management has also given away hundreds of free meals to first responders, medical personnel, and at-risk seniors throughout the pandemic. With these actions, Chef Han and his staff truly epitomize the statement that we’re all in this together.