PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They were among the first to be ordered closed, and may be among the last to reopen.
So can local restaurants survive this pandemic?
Some economists think a majority of restaurants may never open again.
More than 400,000 restaurant workers in Pennsylvania have been laid off.
And while some local restaurants have upped their carry-out and curbside service, that is hardly enough to meet expenses.
Many are just holding on, hoping they can open soon and get their customers back before it’s too late.
Bob’s Diner has been a popular breakfast and lunchtime spot in Pittsburgh for years, but now closed for regular service, owner Dane Marshall has kept two diners open for carry-out.
But she’s feeling the pain of less business like so many other local restaurants.
“When that just shrinks so badly and your fixed expenses aren’t shrinking, yeah I can see how it’s desperate for so many people,” Marshall told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
Carry-out is helping her, but Chef Kevin Sousa, owner of Superior Motors in Braddock, says that’s not possible for Pittsburgh’s high-end restaurants, of which there are many.
“We’re closed. We’re not doing take-out. Our food and our kind of experience — being a destination restaurant doesn’t really translate to take-out so well.”
While Sousa thinks he can survive, he understands predictions that many restaurants may never reopen.
“I hate to say it, but I can definitely see that many restaurants might not have the wherewithal to weather this storm.”
A very recent survey by the state’s restaurant association found that at least 1,000 restaurants in the state will not reopen, and that number is likely to grow.
Reopening restaurants with social distancing rules, like every-other table empty, can also be problematic.
“In order to be profitable, we’ve got to pack that restaurant a couple of times a day,” says Marshall.
So what can you do to support your favorite local restaurant?
Well besides carry-out, says John Longstreet, CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, “Buy a gift card. Gift cards can help with the cash flow for the restaurant.”
Many restaurants may not make it, but those that do will have to some things differently – more spacing between tables, more outdoor dining, and maybe even plastic barriers between tables.
Until a vaccine comes along, it’s not going to be the same.