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Most restaurants say they can’t survive a shutdown that lasts into May

Published Apr 2nd, 2020 4:08PM EDT
Coronavirus impact
Image: TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • The coronavirus impact on the economy has been severe, to the point of catastrophe for many business owners that have been forced to close for an indefinite period of time and lay off workers.
  • Many restaurants are trying to hang on by offering to-go and delivery meal options, but a survey of restaurant owners finds that the vast majority don’t think they’ll be able to endure a closure that lasts more than a month.
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If you’re spending part of your coronavirus quarantine at home trying your best to order takeout or delivery in support of your favorite local restaurant — and you should, because so many of them are barely getting by right now — we’ve got some unsurprising news about the future of many of those eateries.

According to a recent James Beard Foundation survey of food industry players like chefs and restaurant owners, most restaurants (60% of survey respondents) said their restaurant wouldn’t be able to survive if it had to close for a month. The vast majority (75%) said a two-month closure would be an absolute death-knell for their business.

Those responses deal with eateries that have had to close completely, in contrast to those that are valiantly hanging on and trying to at least make a little money in the meantime via takeout orders and delivery options. But even that will only go so far, especially since this survey revealed that respondents said 78% of hourly workers had already been let go at their establishments (and 58% of salaried workers).

Depending on when you start counting, the first full month of a shutdown will come about a week or two into April. That will reflect the 30-day mark since the first cities around the country started instituting shutdown orders and mandating the closure of non-essential businesses.

Not every eatery has the option or has found a way to make takeout and delivery financially viable. After briefly trying the to-go route, for example, a popular bakery in my hometown that primarily sells cupcakes just announced it’s throwing in the towel and closing indefinitely. Here, meanwhile, are some of the other highlights of the James Beard Foundation survey:

  • More than 60% of respondents said they don’t have enough operating capital to sustain a closure for one full month.
  • 80% said they’re not sure whether retooling to offer delivery and take out would be able to sustain them.
  • Of those restaurants in a municipality that had been forced to close, almost 75% believe they will be unable to reopen after two months.
  • 44% of the respondents estimated their restaurants could make it through their first month of closure with an infusion of just $25,000 cash.
  • Extrapolating that number to the estimated 480,000 independent restaurants in the US, the industry would require an infusion of at least $12 billion.
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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