Restaurant Owner Says Uncertainty Surrounds Talk Of Reopening

Some states are starting to reopen, but getting restaurants back up and running will take a while — if they even have the capital to reopen.
Posted at 9:52 AM, Apr 27, 2020

Some states are starting to reopen for business, but for the restaurant industry, that's not something that can happen overnight. 

"I would need a bare minimum of seven days," said Matt Garcia. 

Matt Garcia is the owner of The Grubsteak restaurant in Estes Park, Colorado, a mountain town just outside of the Rocky Mountain National Park. At the end of March, he was forced to close the doors and lay off most of his staff. Colorado is starting to reopen, but restaurants won't get that opportunity till mid-May at the earliest.  

"To get food in — and we make everything from scratch — and to prepare everything is a minimum of three or four days to order the food and get it, and then another two days to prep and be set up and ready for business," said Garcia. "Right now our food vendors have been letting us know that we're going to have some disruptions in the supply chain. Fresh meats are hard to get. Prices are going to be a lot more expensive immediately." 

Across the country, the restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The National Restaurant Association estimates over 8 million employees were laid off. In just two months, the industry is expected to lose $80 billion in sales.

Garcia's restaurant is subject to seasonal traffic swings and the occasional weather closure, so he has an emergency fund available. But even the best emergency plans couldn't account for the current environment.

"Most of your emergency plans, you don't factor in going to zero income. You think of, you know, we're slower. It's limited. You know, we're not as busy as we were, or we're closed for a week. But to be closed for 60 days with zero income, it's not really a plan that you have," said Garcia. 

Four in 10 restaurants across the country closed because of the pandemic, and some of them won't reopen. Garcia says he has the capital to restock his kitchen and bring back some staff. But he can't do any of that until he knows for sure when he can reopen.

"Hopefully in the next week we can get something firm because I can't order $5,000 of food and then have them say, well, we're not going to do it, you know," said Garcia. "The one thing that keeps me up at night is the unknown, trying to make a plan without knowing the rules. It's very difficult."