On Restaurants Versus COVID-19 and How We Can Help Them Weather the Storm

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

Hey folks. It’s been a high anxiety time for so many these past few days. The hospitality industry both locally and abroad is facing unprecedented challenges as we all attempt to socially distance. This week’s Intelligence Brief will be focusing on the impact Covid-19 has had on bars and restaurants thus far as well as how we can best support the industry through this crisis.

At the time of writing, here’s what we know: restaurants both locally and internationally have seen a steep decline in sales since the start of the year, with a downward trend starting over a week ago.

Chinese restaurants and more broadly Chinatowns in cities around the world were the first to take a hit as sinophobia and old racist tropes surfaced.

“As Eater’s Jenny G. Zhang writes, “the outbreak has had a decidedly dehumanizing effect, reigniting old strains of racism and xenophobia that frame Chinese people as uncivilized, barbaric ‘others’ who bring with them dangerous, contagious diseases.”

As the virus progressed, the broader restaurant community began to see decreased numbers. As of this past Thursday, preliminary data shows that Vancouver restaurants across the board saw a 24% decrease in diners. As Vancouver residents continue to stay home to avoid spreading infection, this number is bound to increase.

On Friday in BC, calls for social distancing increased in the province and crowded public spaces began to slow significantly, including our local markets.

As of this weekend, local outdoor farmer’s markets including Riley Park and Hastings Park remained open with some adjustments in service. As the situation is changing hour-by-hour, it’s best to check in with their website and Instagram account for the most up-to-date information regarding future market dates.

Meanwhile, in other countries already harder hit by the virus, more stringent measures are being taken. Earlier last week, New York restaurants were undertaking steps to increase distance between tables but things changed rapidly as the week progressed.

As of yesterday, France ordered all restaurants and cafes to close due to a steep increase in confirmed cases.

Sunday also brought news of wide-spread shutdowns closer to home as Seattle Governor Jay Inslee signed a statewide emergency proclamation ordering restaurants and bars to close save for take-out and delivery services.

Sunday brought word that both New York and LA followed suit ordering all restaurants and bars to close with the similar exceptions around take-out and delivery.

While no local government directives had been issued as of Monday morning, a few restaurants and bars began to announce that they would also be closing their doors in support of staff and community safety including Keefer Bar and Giardino, and Campagnolo:

View this post on Instagram

We hope to see you all back again in a very short time!

A post shared by Campagnolo Restaurant (@campagnolorestaurantvancouver) on

Many establishments that remain open have shared new protocols used to increase safety within their restaurants, bars and cafes including cash-free transactions, increased distance between tables, and enhanced cleaning measures.

As anxieties increased over the past week, local grocery stores and pharmacies have been experiencing a run on non-perishable foods, toilet paper and sanitizer. A reminder to everyone to only purchase what you need. This is an act of collective support and care to ensure that the people who are most at risk have access to what they need to keep themselves safe.

In disappointing (but perhaps not surprising news), Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) told its employees that they would have to donate sick days to each other in order to get through this outbreak as opposed to providing everyone with proper benefits.

Meanwhile, other food and drink businesses are having much more heartening conversations around how to take care of their staff through this crisis

And some that are remaining open are changing operations to ensure that the most vulnerable folks are able to access what they need under safer conditions.

Hospitality activist Ashtin Berry has created guides for both hospitality workers and business owners on creating structures and supports during this outbreak.

On a final note, servers, bartenders, barbacks and dishwashers stand to be hard hit by this outbreak. This is a community that can’t work from home and often have fewer extended benefits and paid sick time. If you’re looking for ways for ways to support our local hospitality industry and employees, a number of local industry folks came together and shared some ideas:

– Purchase gift cards to use at a later date.
– Order food for pick-up or for delivery.
– Make sure to tip your delivery person well (in many ways, they are on the front lines).
– Engage with local restaurants, bars and cafes on social media. Share photos and leave words of encouragement and support.
– If you do need to go grocery shopping, consider supporting a local small business (they’re also often less busy than the larger grocery stores and have more supplies in stock).
– Buy restaurant/bar merchandise online if available (ie: t-shirts, hats, tote bags).
– If you have private events booked at any local bars/restaurants, consider postponing rather than canceling.
– Check in with your friends who are bartenders, servers, dishwashers, cooks, etc. and ask them how you can best support them through this.

We can and will get through this.

There is 1 comment

  1. Fantastic post. Silver lining of times of crisis. Let our humanity and civility shine brighter.

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