Four Things Restaurants Must Address To Come Back From COVID-19 – Forbes

Restaurant News

This past week, luxury loving New York diners got a surprise.

Daniel Humm, the chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park, long considered one of the world’s best restaurants, said it might not return in the same exalted way it has been operating.

“There is definitely a question mark over Eleven Madison Park—if it will reopen,” he told Bloomberg Pursuits on Monday.

In the interview, Humm raised the key issues that many restaurants are wrestling with as they decide their futures once they are allowed to return to business.

They’re the same whether a restaurant competes at a stratospheric level, or just welcomes locals to pull up at a counter.

Available cash. Eleven Madison Park, or EMP, as it’s known in the restaurant trade, will require “millions of dollars” in order to reopen, Humm says. Obviously, its expenses as one of the world’s highest ranked restaurants are different than those of a local favorite

However, for a number of restaurants, reopening after Covid-19 could almost be like the influx of money they originally needed to open.

True, they don’t need to find locations or purchase equipment, but they need to go through similar steps in order to welcome customers again.

Cash tops the list. Restaurants need to make sure that utility and other essential bills are paid, since vendors aren’t likely to extend credit to someone in arrears from before shutdowns.

Some suppliers who’ve taken a hit themselves may want cash up front to put a restaurant back on their delivery list.

Likewise, vendors who’ve always been paid on the spot for fresh ingredients will expect that once more.

Then, there are the costs of sanitizing everything from stoves to bar stools, carpet cleaning, updates to install hand sanitizer dispensers and more.

Many restaurants will be expected to space out tables, in order to ensure social distancing, which will cut into the number of people they can serve — and the revenue they can generate.

Staff. Places that stayed open with delivery and carry out most likely kept a few people working, and some places were flush enough to pay entire staffs.

But now that restaurants have been closed for nearly two months, in some parts of the country, restaurant staff may have scattered.

Restaurant jobs have always been among the most mobile in American society, any way. And the demand for restaurant employees over the past several years meant that a good cook, server or front of the house staffer could pick where they wanted to work.

Now, some might not want to return to restaurant jobs. Some might not want to go back to the cities where they were working.

Some might not even be able to re-enter the United States. Humm told Bloomberg that about 30 percent of his employees were in the U.S. on visas. Immigration bans and other restrictions could keep some people out of the country.

Likewise, employees who rely on tips might be more interested in steady income, like that from grocery stores or hotels, especially since there’s no guarantee how many customers they’ll serve, how many hours they’ll work and the prices that will be on the menu.

Menus. Along with getting vendors to supply ingredients, restaurant owners now have to think about what they’ll be able to serve.

“I want to continue to cook with the most beautiful and precious ingredients in a creative way, but at the same time, it needs to make sense,” Humm told Bloomberg.

That creates a dilemma for some chefs. A good number of customers will expect to find their old favorites back on the menu when they sit down for a meal.

However, it’s possible that those favorites weren’t that cost-effective to serve, and that they hung around menus simply to keep regulars happy.

Notable shortages are taking place, especially in meat, while some food is being thrown away because took much is on hand. At least at the outset, reliability of supply will play a big role in crafting menus.

Meanwhile, many chefs with multiple places are thinking about which might be the most efficient to reopen first.

Tory McPhail, the executive chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, said earlier this spring that it could make more sense to bring back his casual restaurant, Picnic Provisions and Whiskey, in order to serve its neighborhood clientele, before nationally known Commander’s comes back to life.

Some Commander’s dishes have been available in local groceries, along with those from other notable New Orleans chefs. Several are now sold on Goldbelly.

In a number of cities, chefs have combined the operations of several places into one location. So, diners can expect changes, in both surroundings and dishes.

Direction. Humm told Bloomberg that after riding his bike around New York City, he became convinced that that he should be doing more to fight hunger issues.

In early April, he transformed EPM into a commissary kitchen feeding 3,000 meals a day via a non-profit called ReThink Food, of which he is a board member.

Many other restaurants, from Chicago to New Orleans to Boston and Atlanta, also have stepped up to provide meals for food kitchens, for out of work restaurant employees and for essential workers. Donations from individuals and non-profits have helped paid for the effort.

Humm says that if EMP re-opens, he wants to continue to help those less fortunate as well as his well-heeled customers.

He told Bloomberg, “We would need to redefine what luxury means—it will also be an opportunity to continue to feed people who don’t have anything. I don’t need to only feed the 1% anymore.”

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