Restaurateurs prepare for a return to work
About 200 hundred restaurant workers will be back on the job this weekend after takeout and delivery services were given the green light to restart.
However, it was predicted that many restaurants will stay shut — with their future viability in the balance.
Chris Garland, the head of the restaurant division of the Chamber of Commerce, said: “I would like to think that as many as possible will survive this, but businesses have to be very smart about how to navigate the next 12 to 18 months.
“They may have to make hard decisions, very hard decisions that come with a lot of pain, but you have to do it.”
Mr Garland added it was estimated the limited return of business would employ about 200, but that the high cost of operations meant that some restaurants were likely to stay closed until table service was allowed.
He said: “It may seem to the general public that it would be obvious that everyone open up right away, but there is the financial side that has to be considered.
“There are restaurants in the community already with business models that are geared towards this kind of service, like Buzz and Four Star, but not everyone does. It boils down to how are you going to move forward in a careful and thoughtful way?”
Mr Garland, who is also the general manager at Flanagan's on Front Street, said he would meet his team today to talk about the future.
Marico Thomas, the owner of Four Star Pizza, said the business would reopen this weekend with a larger menu than it had before the crisis, because he had added food from the Burger Shack in Hamilton for people in the central parishes.
Mr Thomas added: “We have been preparing during the time we were closed for when we were going to reopen. We had some things that we had been working on rolling out for the last year or so, and now it's happening.”
He added that Four Star had started to import its own food, which left it in a stronger position than some to reopen.
Takeaway chain Buzz said it planned to open some of its outlets by noon on Tuesday.
Holger Eiselt, the founder and chief executive of Buzz owner Take Five Ltd, said the delay was caused by a lack of produce. Mr Eiselt added that the company hoped to bring 45 to 50 people, about a third of the Buzz workforce, back to work next week.
Philip Barnett, the president of Island Restaurant Group, said reopening a restaurant with limited notice after a month of closure was a tough prospect.
Mr Barnett added that staff were still under shelter-in-place regulations until Saturday morning and stockrooms at many restaurant kitchens were empty or depleted.
He said: “Fresh produce is only possibly going to be delivered on Monday or Tuesday if restaurants took a flyer and ordered with great hope yesterday, prior to the official announcement.”
Mr Barnett warned: “Takeout is also, for sit-in designed restaurants, completely unsustainable beyond a few weeks.
“It is certainly a good short-term opportunity to get the restaurant machine spinning up again, but the cost structure of sit-in makes it impossible to even break even on just takeout.”
Mr Barnett added that IRG will focus be on reopening coffee shop Brew and the Pickled Onion, a restaurant and bar, both on Front Street, Hamilton, but that depended on how fast they could get supplies.
Kara Simmons Montano, of PSST Takeout Bistro, also on Front Street, said the takeout operation would be open every day from noon to 9pm starting tomorrow.
She added that PSST planned to lower the cost of food by as much as 20 per cent.
Ms Simmons Montano said: “We want to give rebates and discounts, especially within these first couple of months, even if it means we make less money, so that people can still enjoy us and we can help during this pandemic.”
She admitted that the business could take several months to recover from enforced closure.
However, she added: “We are going to make shifts and play close attention to the market and, because we are new, we can adapt better.”
Ms Simmons Montano said that the restaurant would bring back its four full-time employees before the four part-timers.
Lindsay Simmons, the manager of Chopstix on Reid Street and Rosa's Cantina on Front Street, said that the restaurants would use the Saturday to prepare food before they opened on Sunday.
She explained: “We make the egg rolls and taquitos from scratch and we have to prepare them before we can actually open up.”
Ms Simmons said that the restaurants will be open from noon until 8.30pm and operate for seven days before they started to take Mondays off.
She added that the full-time cooking staff will be the first to return, followed by other staff as business picked up.
Ms Simmons said that she was confident the restaurants could attract enough customers to recover from the shutdown.
She added: “Everybody that I've spoken to can't wait to start getting takeout.
“After being locked down for 28 days, people are ready to stop cooking three meals a day.
“Some people are still scared to pick up food from someone else, but we're doing everything we can to protect the public and ourselves.”