I hear a lot of “and many restaurants won’t reopen.” Yes, some won’t but let’s look at this top down.
For restaurants that are part of a larger corporation (i.e., a chain), these won’t have any difficulty at all. There will be some adjustments to appease the governmental gods such as servers wearing masks and maybe opening at half capacity but these will be temporary and probably disappear in a few months. They’ll also have contingency plans against a new outbreak during the 2021 flu season.
These larger restaurants will find lots of unemployed cooks and servers to hire. Most have still been operating with curbside so their equipment and their food chain is still intact. For corporate owned stores (as opposed to franchises), those that were under performing in 2019 will likely stay closed. The biggest problem your local Olive Garden is going to face is unprecedented demand along with reduced seating capacity.
The same is going to be true for single owner restaurants like your local Mexican restaurant. To them this is going to look more like a grand opening which they’ve done before and can do again. The average Mexican restaurant brings in revenue of over $700,000 each year. This isn’t chicken feed and these restaurants will reopen because they simply have to. The owners have too much equity in them to simply walk away.
The restaurants that won’t reopen will be the older restaurants with owners who were near retirement. They will just put their restaurants up for sale and will likely sell them at a discount. Older people who worked at these restaurants will find it hard to find jobs.
Of course, one of the things that will make all of this work will be money from the federal government. The NRA (National Restaurant Association) [Note 1] has proposed a $240 billion recovery fund.
The Association also supports a 100 percent refundable tax credit that helps restaurants with reopening costs, such as loss of business due to capacity limits, modifications to spaces for health and safety reasons, enhanced sanitation and cleaning measures, personal protection equipment, use of disposable products, and employee education.
Other key matters in the Blueprint for Recovery include deferment on unemployment taxes, enactment of a bill that would allow more restaurants to accept food stamps, and increased funding for economic injury disaster loans.
A few things being discussed will make things very different. For instance, you may wind up pre-ordering your food at home and then being seated only when your food is ready. Perhaps it will all be at your table and we’ll wind up eating our salad after the meal which is more common in Europe. Doggy bags are also very uncommon in Europe and we might see that here as well. The benefit to the restaurant is the elimination of wait staff — something that we would have never agreed to but now might actually appreciate.
I suspect we’ll see a lot of new interiors being installed because if the government is going to pay for you to spruce up your restaurant, you’re going to do it. I’ve always disliked sitting right on top of people so a bit more social distancing in restaurants sounds pretty good to me.
I suspect we’ll all have to learn to accept some number of new inconveniences. For instance, fast casual restaurants will likely only use plastic utensils and you’ll probably have to get them from the counter so people won’t be touching them. A lot of other self-service stuff will likely go away for the same reason.
In the short run, this probably is OK since I’ve noticed how much healthier I am when I’m not around people. In the long run, we’ll return to our filthy, nasty habits and just accept that every now and again we’ll get sick.
[Note 1] OK. Admit it. You were wondering what the National Rifle Association had to do with this story!