By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – January 6, 2021
The following article is part three in a series of how the past year has
affected local businesses. The first two outlined how the pandemic has
changed the way local salons and hotels have adjusted to the new terrain
in order to continue to provide their services to the community as well
as visitors. This segment will focus on restaurants and the changes
that have been made in their corner of the economy.
Most people in this country as well as those in the larger world are
well aware of how dining out has changed. What many may not be aware of is how fragile the business of owning a restaurant might be. We, in
this sheltered existence, might not think that Jack in the Box, Burger
King, Subway, Dairy Queen, even MacDonald’s, and many other local chain restaurants could possibly be teetering on closure if they are under
performing sites. If the big chain restaurants are struggling, one can
only imagine what it must be like for a small local establishment
without the meager benefits of being a franchise in a major chain.
When I caught up with one such business owner and asked the question the response was “its pretty grim”. “Without indoor dining, a significant
portion of my business, it is difficult on so many levels to make ends
meet.” Most people go to a restaurant to sit down, be waited on, eat a
good meal, and then go home, without having to cook or clean up after.
Carry out may satisfy some, but unless you eat in our parking lot, the
food is more often than not cold and needs to be reheated once home.
For some restaurateurs, a space outside for table dining is not an
option. Of course that is but the beginning of the new landscape to be
Staffing, food concerns, new regulations and closures are just a few of
the new problems for the business. The more mundane expenses of power, water, and lights are not suspended, nor is the lease payment due each month. Employees must be paid, if it is possible to keep them,
primarily due to generous unemployment benefits. If not, new waitstaff
must be trained to take up the slack, all at the expense of the owner.
It does not end at that point as new mandates by public health require
yet more regulations to be followed in order to comply with potential
contamination by Covid-19.
All in all it paints a pretty miserable picture for those who often have
their lives wrapped up in making the restaurant earn a sufficient
living. While there are loans available to cushion the effects of loss
of business, it very often is insufficient and comes with strings
attached. The State of California has done very little to make things
right. Another sad commentary on how ineffective Sacramento has become over the past several years. Many restaurants will not survive another year like 2020. It also seems unlikely that indoor dinning will return to normal anytime soon.
This particular restaurant is hanging on by a thread, only time will
tell just how many more are in the same situation.