5 On Your Side

Even as they work to reopen, restaurants face long-term struggles to stay afloat

Posted May 21, 2020 11:48 a.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2020 6:47 p.m. EDT

— Restaurants face serious challenges ahead for owners and staff, even after their doors open.

Linus and Pepper's and Virgil's Original Taqueria are two casualties of COVID-19.

The downtown Raleigh restaurants are permanently closed, the owner says, because of the pandemic.

Closed sign

"I am concerned today, just as I have been since March 17 when we were shuttered, that many of these restaurants will not make it through. I mean, a large number, significant number won't make it through," said Lynn Minges, CEO of the state's Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Minges said restaurants that moved to takeout and delivery are only making 30% to 40% of their typical revenue.

"They're losing money as we speak, and even as they face reopening, they're going to continue to face losses," Minges said.

They'll continue to lose money because when doors open, they will likely have to operate at half capacity.

"The reality is, not many restaurants are going to be making money at that, so it's going to be tough going for a long time," she said.

Minges points out loans taken to survive will eventually come due.

Also, there's no guarantee customers will feel comfortable enough to show up to return.

There are also concerns about what foods restaurants will be able to offer.

"I worry a bit about supply chain," she said. "Not for the long term, but for the short term. If you're a wing restaurant and you're selling wings, if you can't get wings, it's kind of hard to operate."

She says a lot of the restaurants that exist today may look very different in the months and years ahead.

Something that might help business for some restaurants, Minges said, is talk about using sidewalks, maybe even parts of parking lots in some areas, so that they can add tables and be social distanced. Restaurants will have to work through local municipalities or property owners to get permission to block vehicle traffic to expand their outdoor seating.

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