April 8, 2020

Seasonal Bars and Food Festivals Feel Pandemic’s Effects

The Better Pop had been scheduled to return to Smorgasburg last weekend, too, when its Brooklyn markets were supposed to reopen. They are on hiatus now, along with a year-round Los Angeles edition and a planned expansion of its World Trade Center market to two days a week from one. Many of Smorgasburg’s nearly 200 vendors are hanging in limbo, according to Jonathan Butler, one of the market’s founders.

Most Smorgasburg stalls take in more than $2,000 a day, he said, while some go up to $5,000. Most hire from two to six people to help out. The total daily sales was $150,000 for each of the two Brooklyn markets and less for the Los Angeles and World Trade Center markets.

While most vendors don’t have the rent obligations that restaurant owners do, “I suspect they’re feeling a similar level of panic,” he said. For many of the newer Smorgasburg vendors, “the thing they’re most qualified to do is go work in a restaurant. So it’s pretty grim. They don’t have a lot of prospects.”

Some seasonal vendors live all year on their summertime income. Others say the money is nice, but isn’t their first priority.

Like many of the people who sell food at the Queens Night Market, an outdoor bazaar of foods from around the world that has materialized every Saturday night from April to October for the past five years, Hendra Lie does not support himself with cooking. Serving the Indonesian food of his childhood from his stall, Warung Jancook, satisfied other needs.

“The Queens Night Market is my passion,” he said. “I like to cook. I like to present myself and the culture through food that I created.”

Still, the exposure and encouragement stirred his ambitions. Before the coronavirus descended on Elmhurst, Queens, where he lives, he had been planning an Indonesian restaurant. Now, he isn’t sure.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/dining/seasonal-restaurants-coronavirus.html

Restaurants Find Hope in Delivering Donated Meals to Hospitals

The association worked out the details with Stacey Chait, a senior director at NYU Langone, who said she has been getting about 100 emails a day with offers of food. “It’s really, really wonderful to be going through this crisis but have such an outpouring of support and understanding,” she said.

Because it is cheap, familiar, portable and everywhere, pizza is probably the food most commonly sent during a crisis. It is not, however, ideally suited to this crisis, in which people have been urged to stay at least six feet away from one another.

“Putting a bunch of pizza in a common break room and asking a bunch of people to come in there is not supportive of what we’re asking of them as far as social distancing,” said Dr. Gartland, the Emory Healthcare executive.

The logistics of pizza distancing have become a familiar topic to Scott Weiner, a pizza historian and the founder of a company with the self-explanatory name Scott’s Pizza Tours. Since about a week ago, Mr. Weiner has helped arrange the delivery of more than 2,600 pizzas to 73 clinics, hospitals, shelters and other care centers affected by the outbreak.

Donations, which by Sunday night had reached nearly $150,000, arrive through the website of his antihunger nonprofit group, Slice Out Hunger. A dozen or so volunteers there arrange for somebody at each care center to accept delivery of three to 50 plain cheese pies. Employees of Slice, an unrelated pizza-delivery app, then place the order with a local pizzeria, which must agree to follow specific anticoronavirus safety precautions.

One of the project’s aims is to support local businesses, and so independent pizzerias are preferred. “But today I ordered from a Pizza Hut because it was the only option,” Mr. Weiner said Sunday.

He conceded that it is challenging to deliver hot food to facilities that are all but sealed off to the world.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/dining/restaurants-hospitals-coronavirus.html

New Orleans Restaurants, Used to Disasters, Reckon With Something Worse

Larger fund-raising efforts are underway to cushion the blow to unemployed hospitality workers. New Orleans has one of the country’s highest poverty rates, and most people working in restaurants don’t earn enough to build up savings. According to the Data Center, an independent local research firm, 93 percent of the full-service restaurant employees in New Orleans are in low-wage jobs where most workers make less than $15 an hour.

Halting tourism and closing restaurants “affects the hotel worker, it affects the bartender, it affects the Uber driver, it affects the tour guide, it affects the whole economy,” said Andy Kopplin, the president and chief executive of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “Because of our economic base, we’re particularly vulnerable.”

On Monday, the foundation started the Louisiana Service and Hospitality Family Assistance Program at the urging of Gayle Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, who contributed $500,000, with another $100,000 from the McIlhenny Company, the Louisiana-based maker of Tabasco.

The fund is intended to benefit the neediest hospitality workers first, Mr. Kopplin said.

“There are tens of thousands of people in New Orleans who are out of work,” he said. “Every single one of them needs help. The lower-wage workers who were raising kids or taking care of parents before the pandemic, those are the folks who need it the most.”

A provision of the federal stimulus package that President Trump signed into law on Friday provides forgivable loans to businesses that use the money to retain employees and keep the doors open. “It’s a way of making sure you don’t make a decision today that you regret tomorrow,” said Mr. Hecht of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, a former restaurateur himself. “I would encourage people to pay attention to it.”

While they wait for help to arrive, restaurant owners are turning their attention to caring for recently laid-off employees.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/28/dining/new-orleans-restaurants-coronavirus.html

Restaurant Workers Get a Final Paycheck and a Meal From Their Peers

The shock is starting to wear off, and they are formulating a survival plan. Once the government website stops crashing, Mr. Grinstead-Mayle hopes to submit an application for unemployment benefits. The couple’s insurance premiums have been waived for the time being, and they plan to apply for a small-business loan to save the barber shop.

“It’s going to be dicey,” Mr. Grinstead-Mayle said.

In Anchorage, Alaska, José Flores Isaza, 31, just lost his job as a bartender at the busy Spenard Roadhouse. He has been in the business for 16 years, and makes $10.75 an hour. With tips during a good shift, he might make $45 an hour.

The city closed down dine-in service at restaurants and bars on March 16. “It was wild,” Mr. Flores said. “A week ago, I had no idea I was going to get laid off and hoping to get something from unemployment.”

His immediate problem was his $450 car payment and his rent, which is twice that. He called the bank, which allowed him to delay the car payment. Then he went to Costco with money he had in his account and bought food he could live on for a while: potatoes, tuna, frozen chicken, rice, spinach. He applied for unemployment and took some work helping an older woman around the house. He would have normally done it free.

Then something unexpected happened. A friend who had heard about the layoff sent him $450 and asked nothing in return. Mr. Flores teared up as he described the gift.

“I’m sorry for getting emotional,” he said. “I just felt like somebody had my back, you know?”

It was a reminder of how kind people can be, even in terrible circumstances.

“We have to be like that,” he said. “That’s all we’ve got. Nothing else matters.”

Jane Black contributed reporting from Washington, D.C., Chris Kornelis from Seattle, Julia O’Malley from Anchorage and Tejal Rao from Los Angeles.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/dining/restaurants-closing-workers-coronavirus.html

Restaurant Closings Inflict Collateral Damage on Other Businesses

Orwashers Bakery, one of the handful of independently owned bakeries in New York City that sells fresh bread to restaurants, has already laid off 20 of its 110 employees. Wholesale revenue, most of it from restaurants and the distributors that supply them, “was the economic engine of the whole company,” Keith Cohen, the owner, said. Since early March, he said, “it has been in a progressive downward spiral.”

In any other week, Orwashers would have been making daily deliveries of its tender but sturdy hamburger buns to restaurants like Upland, Superiority Burger and the Dutch. Its Rustica and Campagna loaves, familiar by sight if not by name to many New Yorkers, would have been waiting at restaurant doors in the morning.

A few fast-casual lunch spots, including By Chloe, Chopt and Freshco, are still serving some Orwashers bread to their pickup and delivery customers. Many of their locations, though, cater heavily to office workers who have now been ordered to stay at home.

For many vendors, the closings could not have come at a worse time of year. January and February are two of the slowest months for eating out. New spending lags, and old invoices aren’t paid even at the end of the 30-day terms that most restaurants demand.

It’s the nature of the beast,” Mr. Cohen said. “So as a small wholesaler, you get killed.”

Outside the wholesale business, Orwashers sells bread at local farmers’ markets and in stores, including two of its own. Mr. Cohen is throwing all his energy into retail now, like many others who deal in edible products.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/dining/restaurant-suppliers-coronavirus.html

For Drive-In Theaters, an Unexpected Revival

But there are still 305 of them in the United States, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association in Stephens City, Va. The U.D.T.O.A. says every state has a drive-in movie theater except Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana and North Dakota.

While most drive-in theaters open for the summer, some of their owners have decided to get an early start this year to provide families an escape insulated by their cars during the pandemic, as malls, concert halls and restaurants shut down. “Who would have thought that drive-in movies would one day again become the most attractive option for going out?” Mr. Frank said.

Other owners are proceeding with caution, watching a situation that changes every day. “I think we’ve got a lucky opportunity,” said Stephen Sauerbeck, who owns Sauerbeck Family Drive-In Theater in La Grange, Ky. “But I also wonder if it’s a too-good-to-be-true kind of thing.”

Mr. Sauerbeck was correct. For the past week he has been in discussions with the governor of Kentucky and the commissioner of public health. While the option of showing movies seems to be ruled out, the state is currently allowing him to sell popcorn over the weekend and lend his venue to churches for services (patrons can sit in the car and listen to the service on their radios).

Of course, none of that is set in stone, he said. “It seems to change every day.”

“It’s a responsibility on our side to be as safe as possible,” Mr. Sauerbeck said. “I don’t want this to be, ‘We found a loophole in the situation, and we are going to operate an underground business the government is trying to shut down.’”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/style/drive-in-theaters-coronavirus.html

For Some Drive-In Theaters, an Unexpected Revival

But there are still 305 of them in the United States. according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association in Stephens City, Va. The U.D.T.O.A. says every state has a drive-in movie theater except Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana and North Dakota.

While most drive-in theaters open for the summer, some of their owners have decided to get an early start this year to provide families an escape insulated by their cars during the pandemic, as malls, concert halls and restaurants shut down. “Who would have thought that drive-in movies would one day again become the most attractive option for going out?” Mr. Frank said.

Other owners are proceeding with caution, watching a situation that changes every day. “I think we’ve got a lucky opportunity,” said Stephen Sauerbeck, who owns Sauerbeck Family Drive-In Theater in La Grange, Ky. “But I also wonder if it’s a too-good-to-be-true kind of thing.”

Mr. Sauerbeck was correct. For the past week he has been in discussions with the governor of Kentucky and the commissioner of public health. While the option of showing movies seem to be ruled out, the state is currently allowing him to sell popcorn over the weekend and lend his venue to churches for services (patrons can sit in the car and listen to the service on their radios.)

Of course, none of that is set in stone, he said. “It seems to change every day.”

“It’s a responsibility on our side to be as safe as possible,” Mr. Sauerbeck said. “I don’t want this to be, ‘We found a loophole in the situation, and we are going to operate an underground business the government is trying to shut down.’”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/style/drive-in-theaters-coronavirus.html

Local Independent Restaurants May Not Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic

“We’ve cut it to a point where we are trying to remain sustainable,” he said. “What I am telling my staff is that the present is impossible to decipher right now. We are trying to focus on the future.”

When that future comes, reopening restaurants will come as a slow wave. Chains, which have the legal resources and corporate structures to navigate the complex process of securing government loans and grants, will probably reopen quickly, analysts say. Small, nimble places with simple menus, like burger joints and taco stands, may also be able to react quickly. But the longer the shutdown goes on, the more lead-time fine-dining restaurants and places with complex menus to execute will need.

“Even if we’re only off for three months, you can’t just turn the light switch back on,” said Danny Meyer, who this week laid off 2,000 employees, about 80 percent of his Union Square Hospitality Group work force. “It will take at least four to six weeks to get back on your feet.”

And the restaurant landscape will likely look very different. Daniel Shein, a partner in Nur, is trying to raise capital for Agnoris, a start-up software company designed to help restaurants use data to run more efficiently. He presented the idea to investors Monday as part of “demo day” at Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley initiative that helps start-ups refine their products and pitch them to selected audience of investors.

The paradox of pitching a product for future restaurants while trying to save one from dying is not lost on him. Like others, including Mr. Colicchio, Mr. Shein said the only bright spot in the crisis is a chance for the restaurant industry to renew itself.

Before the virus hit, the nation’s restaurant business was almost overheated, with new places opening faster in many cities than diners could keep up with. Restaurants were essential amenities for developers and gentrification markers in neighborhoods. Rising rents, labor shortages and struggles to find a better way to care for and compensate employees were constant topics of conversation.

When the industry does start up again, many say it will be a time to let go of outdated business practices and develop new, more creative ways to feed people.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/dining/local-restaurants-coronavirus.html

A Frantic Few Days for Restaurants Is Only the Beginning

But there was no way to soften the blow for the city’s 250,000 or so restaurant workers. (The number comes from a 2019 study by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School and the National Employment Law Project.) Most jobs are gone for now. Nobody knows how long the city will wait before allowing restaurants to open fully again, but many places won’t be able to survive even a short closure. The business is hand-to-mouth even in the best of times; last night’s receipts go straight into tomorrow’s payroll.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are full of appeals to diners to funnel restaurant workers a little cash by buying gift certificates or branded T-shirts, or by sending money directly or indirectly. Restaurants are for-profit operations, at least in theory, but, for those of us who can’t imagine life without them, they act more like cultural institutions. If you’d give money to keep the opera going, why not pay a little to keep the restaurant workers afloat?

People have been giving. There’s a lot of talk about supporting takeout and delivery, which are still legal in New York. This is wonderful. And it won’t be enough. It won’t even come close.

Because many of the fixed expenses of operating a restaurant haven’t stopped. There is still rent to pay, and taxes, like the New York State sales tax bill due on Friday. Those bills alone could crush restaurants in a matter of weeks, unless they have heaps of cash in reserve.

“Postponing or waiving the sales tax would be the fastest way to prop these businesses up without the government going out of pocket,” Jonathan Butler, a founder of Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea, said on Sunday. “The other huge factor is how they treat leases. Most people have some form of personal guarantee on their leases. I can’t imagine as a policy standpoint they want to come out of this crisis and have small business owners losing their homes because they had a personal guarantee. That’s an issue that could be addressed by policy in some fashion.”

In New York City, the de Blasio administration has made interest-free loans of up to $75,000 available to businesses with fewer than 100 employees if they can prove they’ve lost 25 percent of their revenue. This is a bit of a terrible-food-and-such-small-portions situation, some restaurateurs say; $75,000 won’t get most restaurants very far, and yet repaying it could be a major burden for owners, particularly if they have personally guaranteed the loan.

“There’s going to have to be a huge stimulus behind this to bail out small businesses,” Mr. Colicchio said. Industry leaders seem to be coalescing around asking for cash, perhaps in grants targeted to individual businesses, as well as aid for the hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers who suddenly have no income.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/dining/restaurants-coronavirus.html

Restaurants Across the Country Struggle to Respond to Coronavirus

Just a day before Governor Cuomo ordered all venues that seat 500 people or fewer to operate at half capacity, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to continue to eat at restaurants, and emphasized that the virus isn’t transmitted through food and drinks.

“It’s complicated messaging,” said Mitchell Davis, the chief strategy officer of the James Beard Foundation, which announced Thursday that it was postponing its annual suite of spring culinary awards events in New York and Chicago until the summer. The organization has also canceled some upcoming events at the James Beard House in Manhattan, and is working on a set of health and safety protocols to distribute to restaurants.

“The biggest challenge we feel is how to be supportive of the industry, which is facing very real challenges, but be responsible when we are saying to people, ‘Go eat at restaurants,’ ” he said.

Without any clear guidelines and guest counts sliding each day, restaurants both big and small are trying to do what they can. Many are sending customers newsletters suggesting delivery or takeout options and emails about sanitation measures. Buffets are being replaced with à la carte items; line cooks are using more utensils and gloved hands to finish dishes; and communal silverware containers are being shelved. Booths and tables are being thoroughly wiped down between guests.

At Automatic Seafood and Oysters in Alabama, one of the few states that hasn’t had a verified coronavirus case, walk-in traffic has slowed, although reservations have not. But the staff is trying to prepare for what’s coming, and do what they can to protect public health.

“We are wiping down the telephones, the computer keyboards, the bathroom door handles — anything staff would touch in the back we are now very O.C.D. about,” said Suzanne Humphries, who owns the Birmingham restaurant with her husband, the chef Adam Evans. “We’re thinking of our guests, of course, but thinking of what changes we can do to protect everyone internally.”

That might even mean taking the temperature of every staff member before a shift starts. “It’s scary to think about, but we have to think outside the box,” Mr. Evans said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/dining/restaurants-coronavirus.html