The Cost of COVID-19: Restaurants Pay a Price

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November 3, 2020

Bobby Jenkins (left) and several of his work colleagues “shouted out” a local Mexican restaurant on his Facebook page.

Few segments of the U.S. economy have suffered more as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic than the restaurant industry. According to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association, nearly 100,000 restaurants have closed their doors permanently or long-term since the start of the pandemic, adding thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. And the news doesn’t get any better the longer the pandemic persists, with 40 percent of operators saying it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now unless additional aid is forthcoming from the federal government. Those are daunting numbers never before seen in the restaurant industry, requiring restaurateurs — like many PMPs — to change the way they do business in the era of COVID-19.

“For an industry built on service and hospitality, the last six months have challenged the core understanding of our business,” Tom Bené, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said in mid-September. “Our survival for this comes down to the creativity and entrepreneurship of owners, operators and employees. Across the board, from independent owners to multi-unit franchise operators, restaurants are losing money every month, and they continue to struggle to serve their communities and support their employees.”

Fortunately, restaurateurs have an ally in their ongoing struggle. As chronicled in this month’s cover story, “We’re (Not) Open,” PMPs understand what it means to face tough times and come together as a community, providing not only words of support to their fellow entrepreneurs, but taking tangible action such as extending payment terms, adjusting service frequency, waiving administrative fees, and “shouting out” local restaurants on social media.

“A crisis is a time to show your values and our values are to take care of our customers,” says Sprague Pest Solutions President Ross Treleven. “I have customers who I’m not charging anything to right now because I know they’re in a bad situation,” adds Marty Overline, owner of Aardvark Pest Management in Philadelphia.

Bobby Jenkins, owner of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin, Texas, has taken it upon himself to support the local culinary community — whether they’re customers or not — by chronicling restaurant visits on his Facebook page, accompanied by the hashtag #ABCsuppportslocal. In an Oct. 16 post, he wrote, “Still trying to make sure we are supporting local restaurants as this darn pandemic continues to wreak havoc on so many. Had a fantastic lunch with some of the ABC guys at Casa Garcia’s today. This local group is up to 6 locations here in Central Texas and has been offering great food at a very reasonable price since 1999.” #ABCsupportslocal

Do you think the owners of Casa Garcia’s will remember the support they received from one of Austin’s most highly visible and universally respected business executives? You bet they will. That’s because Bobby Jenkins understands relationships are built over time, in good times and bad, but it is during challenging times that one’s character and corporate values are tested. So, how is your company reflecting its values in the era of COVID-19? It’s a question worth asking. How you answer it will likely impact how your customers — and your community — view your business for years to come, long after this debilitating global pandemic has passed.

The author is publisher of PCT. He can be reached via email at dmoreland@gie.net.