Do you miss going out to eat? I miss the excitement, the tastes, the aromas, the foods, the service, the allure and the people. I also miss getting dressed to go to a restaurant. I miss everything about it! Whether it’s pizza at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, or Sushi at Blue Ribbon in New York City, or a burger at Shake Shak, each restaurant has its charm and appeal. Most of all, I miss the kindness of restaurant people, their generosity and their simple desire to serve food and make people happy.
With this pandemic, we are witnessing the biggest generosity sparking out of restaurants and its staff. As leaders of the food industry are braving through this pandemic as new heroes, after first responders, nurses and doctors, of course, there is a lot at stake.
Chefs saw themselves in a tight situation and had to make overnight decisions that in any normal circumstance would have taken them six months to a year to make. Some transformed their restaurants into community kitchens providing meals for first responders and nurses. Others turned their restaurants into small bodegas and grocery stores. We even heard of spirit manufacturers turn their buildings into a hand sanitizer production facility.
Yet, despite the sudden ability of some chefs to pivot, the hospitality industry is on the verge of collapse. Very few restaurants will survive this pandemic. The industry is responsible for about 4% of the GDP, employing a number of around 15 million people and yet, more than half of restaurant employees remain unemployed.
Will only the big chains survive? Some of our favorite places like the small eclectic little bistros and bodegas won’t re-open. The impact of the pandemic in the hospitality industry cascades into the American economy as a whole, and in all of us. And it’s not just the restaurants. There is a chain of providers who depend on restaurant businesses. The farm, the florist, the linen company, the packers, the beverage distributors, the delivery services, and that’s just the beginning. The system is completely intertwined and connected.
What’s going to happen now? What’s going happen a year from now? In five years from now?
What is the future of the hospitality industry? Is the government going to help the industry?
As we hear the news, read stories, and talk to chefs, a lot of inspiring stories come afloat. It turns out that the harder they work, the more resilient they become. There is hope in each and every story.
Is delivery going to be the new substitute for the industry? Well, delivery can certainly change the long hours demanded by staff workers for sure. How is technology going to play in this situation?
Hopefully, this pandemic will teach us many different lessons. Hopefully, we’ll be able to appreciate the smallest things. Appreciate where our food comes from. Give more credibility to the work of a cook, a chef, a farmer. And hopefully, with our help, the industry will come alive again.
The idea is that collectively, communities across the country can do their share to support their local businesses and buy as much as we can from a restaurant.
There are several ways in which we all can help:
- If you have a favorite local restaurant, check if they are re-open for business and spend whatever your budget will allow to help them.
- If restaurants provide delivery services, call them directly and arrange to do the pick-up yourself, this way, the restaurant won’t have to pay a commission of delivery services.
- Make some noise, and call your local senator or congressmen, and ask for them to help create a fund that is directed specifically for the hospitality industry.
- Visit your local farmer’s market and support the rest of the chain that is directly connected to restaurant businesses.
- Get involved in volunteer services and help local businesses in whatever way you can.
- If you have the means, donate to organizations that are providing relief to the hospitality industry.