It is the end of October 2020 and we are all focused on the National Election in just a few days. We certainly should be zeroing on this event that will likely change the course of history and determine what America looks like and how it is perceived for generations to come. While we wrestle with important issues of voter suppression, confidence in the system (how amazing it is that this is a concern in the United States of America), and whether or not one party or another will accept the results – there are two monumental disasters looming: Covid-19 is rearing up its ugly head for a second and third wave that all indications point to as worse than the first (even if some may try to down play the threat) and as a result – the restaurant industry is facing the end of the road. As Jeremiah Tower stated in a recent interview I conducted with him: “This is not a challenge – it is the apocalypse.”
This is not an exaggeration, this is not a case of fear mongering, this is not political – it is a fact. As winter looms heavy on every restaurateurs shoulders and those outdoor patios are closed due to weather – restaurant owners and chefs are breathing heavy as they know what lies ahead. The pandemic is real, the virus is real, and people are scared. Dining indoors is scary enough for both customers and providers, but opening inside dining with 50% occupancy is simply not workable financially. Add to that the realization that at any moment, Covid-19 may force local governments hand and another mandated lockdown could be right around the corner. Leisure travel is non-existent, and business travel is very limited. Conferences and conventions are gone, weddings are not taking place in hotel and restaurant venues, meetings are virtual, graduations are accomplished on ZOOM , and those Friday night meetings of friends in a local bar or trendy restaurant have basically evaporated. Each one of these changes is another nail in the coffin of the restaurant business.
Try as they may – restaurants cannot sell enough take out, press regular customers to purchase enough gift certificates, deliver enough re-heat meals, or convert enough dining rooms into marketplaces to cover their expenses and make up for that loss of full dining rooms. Restaurants are facing really, really difficult times. These are problems that they can’t ideate their way out of. Even the best restaurant minds are at a loss – what can be done to stop the bleeding and ride out the storm that is likely to last another year? Holy crap! Most restaurants have a tough time surviving through one tough month – let alone nearly two-years.
Breathe deep, sit down, have a glass of wine or beer and think about a world, a country, a neighborhood without those familiar restaurants, those places where we gather with family and friends to celebrate, honor, laugh, toast, and communicate over great food. We might try to convince ourselves that restaurants are a luxury and we can get by without them – but the reality is that restaurants are a very, very important part of our lives – we all need them. We may have survived over the past eight months without those restaurants, but think about the hole in our lives as a result let alone the loss of jobs and the demise of small businesses. This is a serious and highly transitional time that will have a long-term impact on society.
We certainly can’t ignore the dangers of Covid-19, it is our responsibility to do what is necessary to move through this, stay safe, and keep our neighbors healthy. Restaurateurs and chefs, for the most part, do not deny this – but, the question is: “are we ready to pay the price?” Are we ready to face a life without those places that are the core of a community? Is there an answer, is there a way to protect each other and support the restaurant industry at the same time?
YES THERE IS!
First, and foremost – we need immediate assistance from the Congress and the Executive Branch of government. It might even be too late, but we (I mean each and every one of us) must insist that Congress pass a relief bill that focuses on the individual, restaurants, and state governments that host all of those public services that we depend on. A new wave of PPP support to help restaurants and other small businesses pay their employees (employees that are in rough shape through no fault of their own), intervention with landlords for reasonable deferral and payback programs for rent that can’t be met during the pandemic, and an infusion of funds to the SBA so that they can buoy up restaurants that need short term loans and consultation to help problem solve their crisis issues.
Second, we need to stop this politically polarized nonsense that denies the seriousness of Covid-19, ignores the directives of science, and coddles people who fight common sense over wearing masks as if they were middle school brats, and promotes dumb conspiracy theories that the virus is non-existent or far less serious than it is. This is just absurd and we will never get back to anything close to normal unless we stop this foolish behavior.
Finally, we all need to do our part to support local businesses in ways that we can, while still practicing safe behavior. We need a 12-month strategy that will support the 24/7 efforts of local businesses to survive. The alternative is to accept a life after Covid without those restaurants that have been around for generations, those places where we gather to celebrate special occasions, take a break from the stress of work, or simply get together to clink glasses, share our day, and laugh with reckless abandon. Remember those days, remember how important those opportunities were to our wellbeing?
Call your representative, vote for those who know what needs to be done and stand on a soapbox to fight for yourself and those local businesses that make a community all that it can be.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
SAVE LOCAL RESTAURANTS – WE NEED THEM!
Be smart – wear a mask, socially distance from one another, wash your hands, and know that together, with effort, we can make a difference.