Page 28 - The Valley Table - November/December 2020
P. 28

                                MELISSA FLEISCHUT
“New York State Restaurant Association | Albany
The outdoor dining experiment has been pretty successful. We’ve been lucky to have some nice weather this summer, and I think all the levels of government really worked
well at cutting through the red tape and making it easier
for restaurants to use expanded space. But, I’m definitely hearing a lot of concern as to what happens next as the weather gets cold. If outdoor dining isn’t a viable option anymore for these locations, then what? How are they going to make it through the winter?
We did two [statewide] surveys in August. The first, was talking about whether or not [restaurants] were going to be profitable, and 90 percent of the restaurants we surveyed came back and said it was unlikely or somewhat unlikely that they were going to be profitable in the next six months. We really started to think, what does that mean for their long-term viability? So, we followed up with a second survey within a matter of weeks. That came back, and 63.6 percent thought they were likely to close by the end of the year without additional financial assistance.
restaurants aren’t
meant for social distancing.
All along, we’ve been working with our national partner, the National Restaurant Association, on federal relief packages. Federal funding seems to be key to the long-term viability of these restaurants because they aren’t anywhere near their 2019 sales, [but] a lot of their expenses, like rent and utilities, have continued at their pre-COVID levels.
We always said a typical restaurant was probably operating at a three to five percent profit margin before the pandemic. So, you can imagine, if your sales drop even marginally, you’re no longer making money. And, they’ve dropped far more than three to five percent. It varies region
to region, and I would say the Hudson Valley, having been open for outdoor dining and indoor dining longer than, say, a New York City restaurant, is probably faring better. But, some of them are still down 20, 30, 40 percent.
If they had to shut down and go back to delivery and takeout, I think it would be far worse than what we’ve even seen so far. I don’t think many restaurants would be able
to survive; it’s just too much to ask at this point. We’ve taken drastic measures in New York to reopen slowly and carefully. I think the goal is to keep moving forward and to not have to shut down again, but I know the operators are worried about it.
A lot of them have made changes to their businesses that you would likely see continue in the future. I think the rent and landlord relationship is going to have to change. People are going to want way less space. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Everyone can agree that most people have a favorite restaurant, a place where they like to go out and
celebrate family events, birthdays, anniversaries. They are
a cornerstone to the community, so losing a significant percentage of them during this pandemic is going to impact our culture and our social fabric. Restaurants aren’t meant for social distancing; it’s not what we do. Hospitality is
all about smiling, making contact, making people feel welcome. It’s tricky during these times, but we’re still doing the best we can with the rules we’ve been given.”

   26   27   28   29   30