Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Don’t Blame Restaurants for Covid Spread

 

Last week, I sat with a new potential restaurant client, six feet apart and fully masked, of course. Let’s call her Viola.

Viola told me her story. She and her husband are both non-citizens, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit—and they opened a small restaurant a few years ago in Scottsdale, AZ. It’s in a hard-to-find location that is, however, usually found by tourists from all over the US and Canada in the booming tourism season in the Desert Southwest.

Enter 2020. Viola told me how they had finally picked up traction in their tiny spot; she shared stories of her regular customers, expanding hours, wine dinners, and more. They were so confident and excited, that she purchased a building to expand into with a new concept that would eventually also house her existing restaurant. That all happened in January.

Then came March. On March 17, restaurants were shut down for dine-in services statewide. Viola explained with tears in her eyes the pain she felt having to lay off her entire staff.

She spoke of haggling with her vendors over outstanding invoices; the cost of sanitizing products and how hard “to-go” really was for this tiny place with an elevated menu that didn’t offer take-out prior to the shutdown.

With every word, I felt my chest start to tighten. Her story is so similar to the dozens of restaurant clients I work with. The tears, the clenched fists—and the visceral pain—all too common in a year that has decimated an entire industry.

And hear this: when I say decimated, I mean demolished. Trashed. Ruined. Never to return to the way it was. I do not think the average person in America truly understands the shape this industry is in. It’s bad. It’s beyond bad. It’s dream crushing and soul upending. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the industry as a whole is down more than $215 billion dollars over the past eight months.

In fact, the NRA put out a press release Tuesday essentially pleading with governors not to lay the blame for the second wave of COVID at the feet of restaurant owners. Many, if not all, of whom have spent millions of dollars (collectively) to comply with all the rules and regulations set forth by each state, hoping and praying it would be enough to restart dine-in services and to restart the necessary cash flow needed to operate at any level.

As more states start to reenact or tighten lockdowns on dine-in service, I fear my state may not be far behind. In March, before we had real data or even understood the virus, most of us accepted the fate of closing dine-in service in restaurants with minimal grumbling.

As the time has gone on, mask mandates, occupancy limits, etc., have allowed restaurants to reopen. Anecdotally, I have heard from most of my client base that many are tracking about 80 to 90 percent of normal revenue. A welcome change from being down those same percentages throughout second quarter and beyond. That is of course, the restaurants who remain still in business.

Nationally, according to QSR magazine, 100,000 restaurants are expected to cease operations permanently before the end of 2020. Moreover, 40 percent of restauranteurs surveyed did not think they could keep operations going at the current pace for more than six months. As one of my clients told me, “It’s really a matter of how long you can last before you simply run out of money.”

PPP dollars are long gone and, with a stalemate in Congress that seems to be stalling any sort of future relief, for many owners another shut down spells one thing: “G O O D B Y E.”

So, what do we do for owners like Viola and countless others?

First: Stop blaming restaurants for the spread without scientific evidence and contact tracing. They are a scapegoat and, frankly, have been through far enough in 2020 to continue to accept such a large swath of blame.

Second: For the love of all things holy, Congress—stop with the stalemate. Pass some comprehensive relief for small business owners.

Third, personal responsibility is truly the antidote to this virus. Be smart, don’t go out if you are sick, wash your hands, care about your neighbors, comply with mask mandates. Do what you can personally.

Finally, support your local restaurants. Dine-in safely if you are allowed or order carry-out. If you can’t or won’t do that, consider purchasing a gift card or two for future use. If you love a place, support them, because without that critical support, there’s a high percentage chance they won’t be open when we return to any semblance of normal.

Susie Timm is a former bank president who started a public relations and marketing firm in 2009, specializing in restaurants and hospitality.

Published in Business, Economics
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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Who’s blaming restaurants? 

    The only blame lies at the feet of politicians. Even covid didn’t do it. It’s politicians, plain and simple. It’s immoral and evil what They have done. 

    Susie Timm: if you are allowed

    That’s the problem. The mindset that government “allows” Us to do anything. 

    • #1
    • November 17, 2020, at 6:02 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  2. Southern Pessimist Member

    That is so true. And it is true not just in your industry but in every business in America outside of big box stores and internet delivery monopolies such as Amazon. In a just world, once this insane paranoia subsides, there would be a moratorium where Amazon and Walmart etc. are shutdown for an equal amount of time so that the “little” guys could get back on their feet and compete. 

    This has never been a just world.

    • #2
    • November 17, 2020, at 6:03 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  3. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Politicians will never suffer consequences for the destruction of businesses they shut down.

    That has to change.

    • #3
    • November 17, 2020, at 6:08 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susie Timm: Second: For the love of all things holy, Congress—stop with the stalemate. Pass some comprehensive relief for small business owners.

    At any price? Because that’s what Democrats will continue to demand: everything and the kitchen sink. It won’t just be money we don’t have for reasonable expenses, either. It will be money for destructive causes that many restaurant owners hate. Of course, the parties should continue to “negotiate” in hope of some sanity. 

    Many counties are set to lock down again after loosening restrictions. There will be more closures, more unpaid debts, etc. 

    • #4
    • November 17, 2020, at 6:09 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  5. Jon Gabriel, Ed. King

    Great piece, Susie. We’re trying to support our local restaurants, coffee joints, etc., but really fear for their survival. This madness needs to end.

    • #5
    • November 17, 2020, at 6:11 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… (View Comment):

    Politicians will never suffer consequences for the destruction of businesses they shut down.

    That has to change.

    Well, Democrats did lose seats in this election cycle. But not being appointed busybody-in-chief isn’t like losing one’s livelihood, losing years of daily investment, and being buried by debts. 

    • #6
    • November 17, 2020, at 6:57 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. DonG (Biden is compromised) Coolidge

    We are spending more money than ever at restaurants. We are frequenting our favorites and I think they will survive. The marginal places will probably go under. I have seen lots of mandated (theatrical) changes, but have not seen any place improve their ventilation, which would be impactful. Some innovations that I like are the QR codes instead of menus, the checkout by QR code, margaritas to-go, and the improved takeout efficiency (curbside is wonderful). I do miss salt, pepper, condiments,…

    • #7
    • November 17, 2020, at 7:34 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    We went out to eat tonight because Washington is barring inside dining tomorrow. We went to a place that did extensive remodeling to follow the state standard and keep people “safe”. And after a short period of being open with these expensive renovations, the state closes it down again.

    • #8
    • November 17, 2020, at 8:03 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  9. kedavis Member

    Frankly, I think I would want to know how those people/owners/organizations voted and contributed to various candidates and campaigns. I’ve seen businesses around here boarded up with Biden/Harris signs displayed, and frankly I can’t give a damn for them.

    And even if they were still open, I wouldn’t go there.

    On his radio show about 10 years ago now, Dennis Miller sometimes pointed out that for anyone who had a business that needed to lay off people due to Obama regulations etc, the only just thing to do would be to go out to the parking lot, look for the cars with Obama bumper stickers, and lay them off first. Because it was what they voted for, what they wanted, and so they should be willing – even happy – to take the hit.

    • #9
    • November 17, 2020, at 8:26 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Frankly, I think I would want to know how those people/owners/organizations voted and contributed to various candidates and campaigns. I’ve seen businesses around here boarded up with Biden/Harris signs displayed, and frankly I can’t give a damn for them.

    And even if they were still open, I wouldn’t go there.

    Exactly so. And don’t think I’m going to buy a cup of overpriced coffee to wash down the white guilt and cop-hatred your business is peddling with BLM/systematic racism/[x]-ism posters you thought would keep your windows from being smashed.

    • #10
    • November 17, 2020, at 9:35 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Bob W Member

    As we were closing tonight a former employee who works at a restaurant down the road came in and invited us to a party they are throwing this Fri. at the restaurant. Dine in, no mask or distancing enforcement. Come and have a good time. It’s a we are not going to take it anymore party. We won’t be in the area this Fri. or we would go. But we wish them success.

    • #11
    • November 17, 2020, at 9:40 PM PST
    • 13 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. Weeping Member

    Susie Timm: Finally, support your local restaurants. Dine-in safely if you are allowed or order carry-out. If you can’t or won’t do that, consider purchasing a gift card or two for future use. If you love a place, support them, because without that critical support, there’s a high percentage chance they won’t be open when we return to any semblance of normal.

    I would love to support my favorite restaurants, but with Mr. Weeping still unemployed (basically since March, though officially only since July) I can’t. We just don’t have the money. I would imagine there are many people in like us – they would like to, but they honestly can’t.

    • #12
    • November 17, 2020, at 9:46 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  13. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I’m in the same state as Eustace. Our Chili Party is emphatically not canceled, and we hope anyone in WA can come.

    • #13
    • November 17, 2020, at 9:48 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  14. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):

    We went out to eat tonight because Washington is barring inside dining tomorrow. We went to a place that did extensive remodeling to follow the state standard and keep people “safe”. And after a short period of being open with these expensive renovations, the state closes it down again.

    I did the same on Friday night in California as indoor dining was going to stop at midnight. I do what I can to support the restaurants and all small businesses and I think it is absolutely criminal making them spend all that money on complying with safety regulations and then closing them down anyway.

    • #14
    • November 17, 2020, at 10:17 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  15. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):

    We went out to eat tonight because Washington is barring inside dining tomorrow. We went to a place that did extensive remodeling to follow the state standard and keep people “safe”. And after a short period of being open with these expensive renovations, the state closes it down again.

    I did the same on Friday night in California as indoor dining was going to stop at midnight. I do what I can to support the restaurants and all small businesses and I think it is absolutely criminal making them spend all that money on complying with safety regulations and then closing them down anyway.

    It really is criminal. Beyond criminal.

    I was in the dollar store a few weeks ago to pick up stationary supplies. After I shopped, I was outside the store letting some kid s pet my service dog.

    A young couple came out and their little four year old boy was softly fussing as he didn’t get a toy he wanted. The father said, “You know your mom and I would love for you to have that toy, but we don’t have the money right now.”

    I turned and made the offer of ice cream for each of them, as I had stocked up on dreamsicles. I was pleased they accepted.

    But the whole thing made me so mad. It seemed obvious they weren’t used to having to ration money to such an extent. How dare these bureaucrats destroy people’s lives. One out of every four teenagers in the US has considered suicide over the last three months. (The usual rate is a horrid and high ten percent, but that is a lot less than 25%) Six times as many HS’ers have killed themselves as have died of COVID. Three times as many 30 to 40 years olds have committed suicide as the number of COVID fatalities in Placer County Calif.

    Every time I hear Newsom on TV discussing the need to lock us down or mask us up to prevent the spread of COVID, I just want to smash something.

     

    • #15
    • November 18, 2020, at 12:55 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. Blondie Thatcher

    There is a local NC BBQ joint that has never totally shut down. They went straight to takeout and still have not opened up for dining. They have done enough business with takeout it isn’t worth the investment to do all those things required to open for dine-in. They set up drive thru in the parking lot so you don’t even come inside. You get free tea (and refills) while you wait. There is a line for “already ordered” and “need to order”. Now, this place has been around for decades and is out in the country with a loyal following. I’m afraid many such places in Wake County are not going to fair as well. It really is a shame and so very unnecessary. 

    • #16
    • November 18, 2020, at 5:00 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  17. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Is it just me who finds it odd that only people who will continue to be employed and getting a paycheck (big companies whose employees can work from home, polititians, democrats) are the ones calling for regular people to lose their life savings, homes, families, not see their loved ones, etc. I don’t see people forced at gunpoint by the state saying this. Strange!!

    • #17
    • November 18, 2020, at 5:09 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  18. Full Size Tabby Member

    The long term psychological effects on your clients and hundreds of thousands of others who have had their dreams shattered is part of the human wreckage being created by government and society singularly focused on one issue (a virus) and refusing to consider the collateral effects of myopic policy. 

    • #18
    • November 18, 2020, at 5:28 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  19. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susie Timm: First: Stop blaming restaurants for the spread without scientific evidence and contact tracing. They are a scapegoat and, frankly, have been through far enough in 2020 to continue to accept such a large swath of blame.

    • #19
    • November 18, 2020, at 5:31 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    Susie Timm: comply with mask mandates

    I will comply with business owner masking requests/signage. I have no respect for the mask mandates. There’s no evidence they work.

    • #20
    • November 18, 2020, at 5:38 AM PST
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. Stad Thatcher

    Blondie (View Comment):

    There is a local NC BBQ joint that has never totally shut down. They went straight to takeout and still have not opened up for dining. They have done enough business with takeout it isn’t worth the investment to do all those things required to open for dine-in. They set up drive thru in the parking lot so you don’t even come inside. You get free tea (and refills) while you wait. There is a line for “already ordered” and “need to order”. Now, this place has been around for decades and is out in the country with a loyal following. I’m afraid many such places in Wake County are not going to fair as well. It really is a shame and so very unnecessary.

    Is the Aviator Smokehouse doing okay? I wanna eat there again . . .

    • #21
    • November 18, 2020, at 5:41 AM PST
    • Like
  22. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Buckpasser (View Comment):
    Is it just me who finds it odd that only people who will continue to be employed and getting a paycheck (big companies whose employees can work from home, polititians, democrats) are the ones calling for regular people to lose their life savings, homes, families, not see their loved ones, etc. I don’t see people forced at gunpoint by the state saying this. Strange!!

    It’s easy to call for restrictions on other people.

    The blame-and-shame part is particularly annoying. People need to find a scapegoat for the spiking case numbers, and it’s you people! You people who don’t obey!

    There’s this magical thinking that the only reason we’re still dealing with the WuFlu is because some of you refuse to comply with the orders we, your betters, have enacted!

    Of course, that’s a non-falsifiable theory, but people really love those.

    • #22
    • November 18, 2020, at 6:23 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… (View Comment):

    Buckpasser (View Comment):
    Is it just me who finds it odd that only people who will continue to be employed and getting a paycheck (big companies whose employees can work from home, polititians, democrats) are the ones calling for regular people to lose their life savings, homes, families, not see their loved ones, etc. I don’t see people forced at gunpoint by the state saying this. Strange!!

    It’s easy to call for restrictions on other people.

    The blame-and-shame part is particularly annoying. People need to find a scapegoat for the spiking case numbers, and it’s you people! You people who don’t obey!

    There’s this magical thinking that the only reason we’re still dealing with the WuFlu is because some of you refuse to comply with the orders we, your betters, have enacted!

    Of course, that’s a non-falsifiable theory, but people really love those.

    Don’t worry about losing the small family business you built over 40 years, our welfare payments will make it better. I love the way our “betters” get to pick and choose who gets to make a living for themselves and who doesn’t.

    • #23
    • November 18, 2020, at 6:50 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Buckpasser (View Comment):
    Don’t worry about losing the small family business you built over 40 years, our welfare payments will make it better. I love the way our “betters” get to pick and choose who gets to make a living for themselves and who doesn’t.

    Of course, they’ve been doing that for a long time, but with much more subtlety. Now they’re just openly crushing small businesses knowing that we have little recourse.

    I hope people are still considering massive lawsuits against the State, because it’s the only way to remind them that they serve at our pleasure, not the other way around.

    • #24
    • November 18, 2020, at 7:03 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. Blondie Thatcher

    Stad (View Comment):

    Blondie (View Comment):

    There is a local NC BBQ joint that has never totally shut down. They went straight to takeout and still have not opened up for dining. They have done enough business with takeout it isn’t worth the investment to do all those things required to open for dine-in. They set up drive thru in the parking lot so you don’t even come inside. You get free tea (and refills) while you wait. There is a line for “already ordered” and “need to order”. Now, this place has been around for decades and is out in the country with a loyal following. I’m afraid many such places in Wake County are not going to fair as well. It really is a shame and so very unnecessary.

    Is the Aviator Smokehouse doing okay? I wanna eat there again . . .

    So far. Pooper Cooper and his lackey, Mandy Cohen, are just dying to close dine-in again. Luckily we’ve not had cold temps until this week so people have been enjoying eating outside, anyway. Here’s a rural county fighting back against the governor. Note the common sense in the statement by their health director. 

    • #25
    • November 18, 2020, at 7:07 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Skyler Coolidge

    I’m sorry but none of your proposed steps will make even the slightest difference.

    The only small businesses doing well are the ones that can essentially hide from the government in their day-to-day operations. Businesses with a brick and mortar location will suffer.

    This suits the communist/progressives just fine. Communists do not like people prospering without their permission. If Biden is elected, his handlers will do their utmost to crush all such businesses permanently. Businesses are being made illegal.

    “Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

    Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

    • #26
    • November 18, 2020, at 8:19 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Unsk Member

    Hey all you Neanderthals and COVID deniers, We in LA county have shown the way as to how to deal with these COVID scofflaws! 

    A curfew that’s how!

    Starting Friday night, there will be a 10- pm curfew in LA County so that outdoor dining reservation you booked must be no later than 8:30 pm! That’l teach ’em. And that will stop all these late night partiers as well who are spreading this deadly disease like wildfire at these rampant illegal parties and get togethers. And that’s just the beginning. We have great plans to shut everyone and everything down except of course for those elite betters who are connected, because remember they are just better than we are. 

    Remember only family members that you live with you can be with you on Thanksgiving where we give to thanks that our wondrous Joe Biden stole, er’ won the election. Also remember that applies to you poor souls that live alone – no going to your neighbor for Thanksgiving. We must respect the proper Authorities wishes to the fullest, because they obviously know what is best for us. 

     

    • #27
    • November 18, 2020, at 9:00 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  28. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Hey all you Neanderthals and COVID deniers, We in LA county have shown the way as to how to deal with these COVID scofflaws!

    A curfew that’s how!

    Starting Friday night, there will be a 10- pm curfew in LA County so that outdoor dining reservation you booked must be no later than 8:30 pm! That’l teach ’em. And that will stop all these late night partiers as well who are spreading this deadly disease like wildfire at these rampant illegal parties and get togethers. And that’s just the beginning. We have great plans to shut everyone and everything down except of course for those elite betters who are connected, because remember they are just better than we are.

    Remember only family members that you live with you can be with you on Thanksgiving where we give to thanks that our wondrous Joe Biden stole, er’ won the election. Also remember that applies to you poor souls that live alone – no going to your neighbor for Thanksgiving. We must respect the proper Authorities wishes to the fullest, because they obviously know what is best for us.

    I detect sarcasm.

    Isn’t it interesting how the virus is apparently only active after 10:00 pm?

    None of this makes any sense.

    • #28
    • November 18, 2020, at 9:05 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  29. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Restaurants and bars should get not have to pay for their licenses this year; the same government(s) that make them pay money to be in business are preventing them from doing that business. 

    Also; when is it going to occur to these clowns that killing industry means they get less tax money to run their programs with? 

    • #29
    • November 18, 2020, at 9:27 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  30. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… (View Comment):

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Hey all you Neanderthals and COVID deniers, We in LA county have shown the way as to how to deal with these COVID scofflaws!

    A curfew that’s how!

    Starting Friday night, there will be a 10- pm curfew in LA County so that outdoor dining reservation you booked must be no later than 8:30 pm! That’l teach ’em. And that will stop all these late night partiers as well who are spreading this deadly disease like wildfire at these rampant illegal parties and get togethers. And that’s just the beginning. We have great plans to shut everyone and everything down except of course for those elite betters who are connected, because remember they are just better than we are.

    Remember only family members that you live with you can be with you on Thanksgiving where we give to thanks that our wondrous Joe Biden stole, er’ won the election. Also remember that applies to you poor souls that live alone – no going to your neighbor for Thanksgiving. We must respect the proper Authorities wishes to the fullest, because they obviously know what is best for us.

    I detect sarcasm.

    • #30
    • November 18, 2020, at 9:31 AM PST
    • 1 like