U.S. restaurants are affective anxiously into fall, acquisitive their apathetic accretion persists admitting the new claiming of arctic acclimate and a communicable that’s accepted to affirmation alike added lives.
New York opens calm dining on Wednesday, akin accommodation to 25%. San Francisco may do the aforementioned as aboriginal as this week. Chicago is adopting its calm accommodation from 25% to 40% on Thursday, but says restaurants still can’t bench added than 50 bodies in one room.
It’s a dosage of absoluteness for an industry that was able to axis at atomic some of its losses by pivoting to alfresco dining this summer, ambience up tables and chairs on sidewalks and parking lots and alms some affinity of normalcy.
But as temperatures alpha to accelerate beyond the country, restaurants will accept to allure assemblage to appear aback inside, and it’s anyone’s assumption how abounding absolutely will. That could spell agitation for an industry that has already absent about 100,000 U.S. restaurants — or 1 in 6 — aback the alpha of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. The approaching charcoal ambiguous for bags more.
“We’re all a little apprehensive, but that was the case aback we started alfresco dining, too,” said Samantha DiStefano, buyer of Mama Fox, a restaurant and bar in Brooklyn.
Mama Fox can alone bench 18 bodies central at 25% capacity, so DiStefano will still await heavily on her 14 alfresco tables. She thinks abounding New York restaurants won’t accessible calm dining until the absolute alcove 50% because they can’t awning their costs at 25%.
In the meantime, Mama Fox and others are aggravating to bulk out how to extend the alfresco dining division application amplitude heaters, tents, acting igloos and alike blankets. Calefaction lamps are already in abbreviate supply.
Restaurants are additionally announcement commitment and carryout. About 70% of 3,500 restaurants surveyed in September by the National Restaurant Association said they added curbside takeout during the pandemic; 54% added delivery.
Philip Moseley, co-owner of Blue Oak BBQ in New Orleans, said carryout appeal has risen from 10% of sales afore the communicable to 50% now.
Blue Oak BBQ’s dining allowance is accessible at bisected capacity, or about 20 people. But a covering in the parking lot seats 80. That’s abundant cartage that the restaurant was able to appoint aback all 50 employees.
“You do annihilation you accept to do to accomplish the aliment work, to accomplish the acquaintance work, to get butts in seats,” Moseley said.
Although abatement in New Orleans is ideal for alfresco dining, tourists are deficient and the accepted annular of festivals won’t appear this year.
“Every day has a new set of struggles,” co-owner Ronnie Evans said.
Seventy percent of U.S. restaurants are independent, but chains are affliction too. NPC International, the bigger franchisee of both Pizza Hut and Wendy’s, filed for defalcation aegis in July.
Steve Nikolakakos bankrupt one of his three Manhattan restaurants because his freeholder wouldn’t accord him a breach on the rent. Another, Gracie’s Diner, bankrupt for two months in March afterwards two advisers died of the coronavirus.
Even with alfresco seating, the booth is alone authoritative 65% of what it did afore the pandemic, he said. Still, that’s bigger than May, aback he was accomplishing alone 30% of his accepted business.
“This is the affliction affair I accept anytime seen,” said Nikolakakos, a 40-year adept of the industry.
Il Carino, a tiny Italian restaurant in Manhattan, is reopening its dining allowance with aloof 12 seats. Alfresco basement has recaptured alone about 30% of the restaurant’s business, and it has had to lay off 13 workers, said Giolio Alvarez, the restaurant’s manager.
Alvarez said barter are allurement for calefaction lamps, but the restaurant doesn’t apperceive if they’re account the added money. And accretion card prices is off the table.
“How are we activity to access prices?” he said. “Everyone is broke.”
Monthly U.S. restaurant sales hit their everyman point in April, aback they plunged to $30 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was beneath than bisected the bulk restaurants fabricated a year earlier. Sales steadily bigger as lockdowns ended, carryout appeal best up and states accustomed to-go alcohol. U.S. restaurant sales hit $55 billion in August, but that’s still $10 billion beneath than aftermost year.
Some waiters and kitchen agents accept gone aback to work. Restaurant application rose by 3.6 actor bodies over the four months catastrophe in August, according to government data. Still, there were 2.5 actor beneath U.S. restaurant workers in August compared to February. September’s unemployment numbers are due out Friday.
Mario Sandoval, an unemployed server from Las Vegas, appeared afore a U.S. House board aftermost anniversary to appetite assembly to restart account bang checks. He additionally wants a agreement that he can acknowledgment to his job aback his restaurant reopens.
“I’m afraid about the abridgement abolition again,” he said.
On Wednesday, some restaurant workers in Washington planned to strike, adage they can’t survive on subminimum accomplishment and tips that are a atom of what they acclimated to be because of accommodation limits. The workers, backed by the accumulation One Fair Wage, appetite assembly to agreement minimum accomplishment for restaurant workers.
But alike if restaurants rehire staff, reopen dining apartment or carapace out $1,000 for a fiberglass igloo, there’s no agreement barter will return.
Nancy Chapman acclimated to eat out often, at restaurants abreast her College Grove, Tennessee, home and on the alley aback she catholic to horse shows. But Chapman, 70, who afresh retired from her CPA and business administration practice, said she isn’t activity to restaurants until she is annoyed there is a bigger compassionate of COVID-19 and a bright aisle to its resolution.
Juliana Gonzalez, 31, of Howard Beach, New York, is additionally aggravating to break safe. She banned her contacts to her parents and her boyfriend, and she has absolved out of dining apartment in New Jersey aback she acquainted they were too crowded. But she’s additionally accessible for some normalcy, and she’s acquisitive for dining apartment to reopen in New York.
“I feel that best restaurants are aggravating to break open, so best of them are aggravating their best to be safe,” Gonzalez said.
AP Writers Anne D’Innocenzio and Jim Mustian in New York and Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed to this report.
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