The hospitality industry is hurting right now. Many of your favorite restaurants and bars have closed in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the vast majority of remaining establishments are struggling to scrape by with a pivot to carry out and/or delivery models. As shocking as it is to see former James Beard-awarded chefs packing their food into plastic delis for delivery instead of with their usual artful plating, it’s even more jarring to consider that they are now competing for diners’ dollars with fast food drive-thru concepts that enjoy decades-long headstarts with consumers, especially as discretionary dining dollars begin to dwindle for quarantiners.
These novel times of Coronavirus continue to stagger restaurateurs with punch after punch: applying for loans from the financial bureaucracy, deciding whether to furlough beloved staff or try to hold on for another week while waiting for a bailout to arrive, figuring how to maintain a safe environment for workers and patrons alike, or even figuring out how to secure a restaurant building that is closed in hopes for an eventual re-opening. But through it all, chefs still want to cook, servers still want to serve and bartenders want to engage with customers from behind the stick. They do this because at the absolute heart of the concept of “hospitality” is the desire to offer comfort, refuge and sustenance, three things we could all use right about now.
The trite greeting in emails and at the beginning of Zoom sessions has quickly become “How are you hanging in there?” Yet, at best, we’re all just hanging in there now with few stories of success of late. So we aim to check in with some of your favorite restaurateurs, chefs, bartenders and purveyors, many of whom you’ve probably seen in the pages of the Local Palate. We want to give them a chance to share how they are managing to hang on, or to explain why they aren’t. We’ll address critical issues at the heart of how the hospitality industry can survive this major interruption of business and what the landscape might look like on the outside of the Coronadome.
Most of all, we want to show the people who have fed and comforted us for all these years that we’re thinking about them, and that we want to know what they’re going through so we can help shoulder the burden however we can. The communal table will indeed be reset at the end of all this, and there will certainly be major changes. We’ll be there to document the new reality, and we’ll be first in line to belly up to the bar or sit down at the chef’s table!