Everyone at this point has experienced the frustration of no longer being able to dine in at your favorite restaurant or bar. It is even more frustrating for some of us who saw locations open again ... only to be closed back down a few weeks later. What many people don't understand is that this costs THOUSANDS of dollars to re-open and if they are forced to close again it means money just thrown out the window. Here's a look at some of the expenses a business might face during this time and why we should all be forgiving of paying a bit more for our favorite foods.
Let me be clear - I'm NOT in favor of restaurants who choose to add a "COVID surcharge" to the menu. This is a deceptive and confusing practice but I do recognize a need for adaptations to menus including reducing the number of items and raising the price. When you order, make sure to take this into consideration and also tip your delivery person or the runner who takes your order to the car. If you are lucky to be in an area where outdoor dine-in service is still available, you should likewise take good care of your waiter and understand that this is a challenging time for them too.
Restocking Food and Beverage Inventory
When restaurants in San Diego started opening back up again, I talked with a friend who owned a restaurant. He shared that it cost him nearly $50,000 to replace the food lost when he shut down in March! That includes perishable things like fish, steaks, chicken, and vegetables as well as other items such as spices and oils that once opened need to be consumed regularly or they lose their potency.
Building New Outdoor Dining Spaces
In the first phase of re-opening, we only needed to build out interior spaces with improved filtration systems, space tables apart, and some locations built plexiglass shields to further divide one table from the next. Now, as we shift to a more permanent solution, outdoor dining is the future. This means that things such as weatherproof chairs, carpets, and coverings to offer shade from the sun and protection from the rain. Miami company, Retractable Awnings, has done a lot of work with local businesses in the past that want to open up outdoor spaces. Today though, things are a bit different since we're not always talking about covering permanent areas like patios where you can plant posts on the outer edges. Instead, retractable awnings can be installed to temporarily cover sidewalks, parking lots, and other spaces.
All this temporary buildout costs thousands of dollars worth of investment in materials and labor, just to open up again.
Advertising is different now since even more of it has shifted to online and people are less likely to listen to the radio since people aren't commuting and circulation of local coupon books has been stopped or reduced. Even advertising on Facebook can be a risk now since some folks are attacking businesses that choose to still advertise there. Regardless of this, businesses still need a way to reach potential customers and let them know about new offerings such as take-out family dinner boxes or other specials that they have created to adapt to the new normal.
Sourcing Cleaning and Sanitation Supplies
While some things are simply a matter of money, and luckily state, as well as federal governments, are helping to ease that concern, the lack of cleaning and sanitation supplies means that restaurants might not be able to operate properly. Just as you and I have trouble finding Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer, restaurants face the same issue.
One way or another though, we will all get through this and I look forward to supporting my local business friends both here in San Diego as well as other places across the country. If you feel the same way, make an effort to reach out to your favorite location and do a takeout order tonight!