What restaurants need to survive the COVID-19 crisis

With about half of all beef consumption occurring outside the home, how COVID-19 affects restaurants may affect beef demand.


By Greg Bloom, BEEF Magazine

Mar 19, 2020


Boom! Your doors are closed!


Restaurateurs surely would have liked more advance notice from their government. Perhaps seeing what happened in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Italy was enough warning that things were going to change soon in the U.S. as well. This week, with less than 24 hours’ notice, restaurants in Colorado, New York, Washington, California and many other states were ordered closed by their governors.


I’ve been speaking with many of my restaurant customers over the past few days, asking them how they plan to survive the sudden drop in business.


Many of my friends who own restaurants feel as attached to them as you likely are to your farm. They’ve poured their life, sweat and savings into their operation. Some will figure out a way to survive for the next month, or two, or perhaps three. But sadly, many others will be closing their doors permanently long before that.


One of my long-time customers, Lee, co-owns a half-dozen restaurants in Colorado. Tuesday, he was forced to lay off over 500 hourly workers and had to instruct them to go online immediately to collect unemployment. Lee can make no promises but told them all he plans on hiring them back as conditions allow.


If the U.S. follows Hong Kong’s pattern, restaurants can expect a slow recovery once they are allowed to reopen. My friends in Hong Kong report that coronavirus cases are declining, and restaurants are starting to get busy again, but the gains are slow as people are still cautious about infection and wary of failing finances.


In the U.S., we’re about to see many restaurants, especially small family businesses, go under in the next few weeks and months. Many lack the reserves to pay their debts to their vendors, rent, sales taxes and payroll.


Others who have some reserves, or an ideal location for takeout, will cash-flow through COVID-19. The best thing consumers can do right now is to support restaurants that offer takeout. Their sales may only be 20% to 30% of normal, but even that much will help them crawl through the weeks to come...