Closed During COVID: A Restaurant Owner Interview Series

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented global economic slowdown, predicted to be much worse than the 2008 financial crisis. In just one month 22 million unemployment claims were filed and businesses across America hurt as sales declined and stay at home orders went into effect. Small and independent businesses have been particularly affected. We've seen the numbers and heard the stats, though a looming sense of unknown remains as the true length and breadth of this crisis remains to be seen.

Statistics aside, what is the reality for the owners and operators of local, independent businesses impacted by this crisis? What does this crisis mean for small restaurants and food businesses? Especially for restaurants that have shut their doors completely, what does the future hold?

As a foodie, blogger, and lover of local independent restaurants, I wanted to know. Beyond the macro-level stats and expert quotes, why have some restaurants chosen to close during COVID-19? How are restaurant owners and their employees coping? How big of a financial hit have they taken? Where are they finding hope and inspiration during this crisis?

So I asked them. In a series of interviews with DMV area restaurant owners who have chosen to close their doors during this crisis, a few lessons became clear.

1. From owners of DC pub Wicked Bloom we learned that money matters, but so does creativity and community. Despite losing up to 95% of their income and then ultimately closing, these business owners reminded me that there are aspects of this crisis that we can all look to for hope.

2. Joe Neuman of Sloppy Mama's BBQ taught me how COVID-19 carries hidden costs for businesses. Namely, it's incredibly difficult to make decisions with limited information. In addition, ensuring a business (even a closed one) and its employees survive this crisis is a job in and of itself. Let's not underestimate those burdens.

3. Matt Samuels of newly opened MD restaurant A Place To Walk To educated me on the negative impact of third party delivery services and how they can change customer relationships for the worst. However during this crisis we can (and should in my opinion) be supportive customers and advocates to the extent that we can.

Be sure to click on the links above to check out each interview in full, it's worth it!

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