Over the past few months, coronavirus transmission rates have been rising to numbers higher than they’ve ever been. Leading some states to take all precautions seriously and institute yet another major shutdown. Including my hometown Los Angeles, which completely closed both indoor and outdoor dining last Sunday. This shift in service feels necessary given the dire number of cases, but still begs the question: how can restaurants survive?
Since the beginning of the pandemic back in March, the restaurant industry has been facing an exorbitant amount of damage.
Recent reports state that over 100,000 restaurants have had to permanently close. Meaning that overall, only one in six establishments have survived the virus. Leading to a detrimental loss in sales estimated to be around 240 billion dollars by the end of this year.
These severe changes have also affected millions of employees. As restaurants’ closures and shutdowns mean that owners have to lay off most, if not all of their staff members. The number of lost jobs during coronavirus has come to a staggering total of 5.9 million overall. Including the cutbacks that take-out only restaurants have had to make on their front of house staff.
Due to these inconceivable setbacks, the term “outdoor dining” has entered the mainstream cultural lexicon. After the major lockdown period six months ago, restaurants found what could’ve been a great solution to their troubles: just put the customers outside!
This way, dining clients didn’t have to sit packed together and risk further infection. So, the local government allowed major streets to be blocked off and restaurants to place their interior furniture outdoors. The waitstaff had to wear both a mask and a face shield, and plastic dividers were added between tables to avoid all contact risk. Effectively curbing both the CDC’s warning against indoor spaces and even more extraneous losses to the industry.
However, this method of getting customers back at restaurants was quickly met with backlash. Upon its launch, outdoor dining was partly seen as Americans selfishly putting essential workers at risk, just to be served dinner. As well as an uncaring government’s pseudo-solution to a crumbling industry. The cobbled-together dining set-up read as a blatant excuse to not give federal relief to at-risk businesses, making the vulnerable local restaurants fend for themselves amongst an out of control pandemic.
Outdoor dining has also proved to be completely unsustainable. What was once a viable, temporary option for the lighter spring and summer, turned decrepit as the virus continued through colder months. Forcing restaurants to build tents and mini “structures” on top of their outdoor dining areas. Some complete with full roofs and windows, effectively creating another mini-indoor restaurant on bike lanes across the country. Which made the outdoor patio space a contradiction to safety codes. As well as completely obsolete in the wake of another lockdown, making the attempt to recoup yet another loss.
Methods of survival
However, what choices do these businesses have? With a turbulent pandemic and no federal stimulus, restaurants have to do something to survive another mandatory shutdown.
Some establishments have already started. Including things like pushing featured deals such as free delivery service, and optimized menus. Restaurants are reducing their selections to only the most popular items as well as ones with more efficient cook times. Businesses have also completely changed some of their offerings, opting to serve comfort food items that have been skyrocketing since the onset of the incredibly stressful pandemic. Such as pizza, ramen, and fried chicken.
Restaurants have even ventured into creating multiple streams of income by listing their kitchen under a different name on food delivery apps. Such as famous arcade and children’s party spot Chuck E. Cheese listing their pizzas under the name “Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings” on food delivery sites to fight bankruptcy.
Though these ideas show the adaptive (and hilarious) ingenious of the restaurant industry, it’s just a side effect of their harrowing losses. We’ve all had to adapt during this time, however, it seems that restaurants have been taking some of the biggest blows due to the intimate nature of their service.
What can we do?
These somewhat tragic measures have been weighing on me heavily throughout the duration of this pandemic. I want to support my local businesses, but I also don’t want to spread a deadly disease that could infect me, my loved ones, and those having to serve me.
Some adaptations that I’ve made to give my support and minimize my impact have been to order locally and digitally. Ordering takeout has never been so in, and most restaurants have moved onto delivery apps by now. There’s also usually a tab to search local eateries in your area that need your orders the very most. Better yet, you can even call your favorite restaurants and ask what the best method of delivery would be, as ordering from their website directly may be more beneficial.
Also, make your delivery contactless and tip well. The essential drivers and bikers are at great risk of getting your orders to you. Make sure to be courteous to those helping restaurants stay in service.
Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll be able to dine in and support our favorite, local restaurants together again. However, while our government is being irresponsibly negligent of the climbing virus and our struggling small businesses, we have to be diligent about the industries we care about.