Cost of COVID: how the pandemic changed the restaurant industry

The cost of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry has been astronomical. Cooks and wait staff have lost jobs and some restaurants are scared of having to close their doors forever.

“If we were to close again, I don’t know what resources. I have already squeezed my assets dry. And if there was another closure, I don’t – I wouldn’t be able to, I wouldn’t be able to reopen,” said Chrissy Lee, the owner of Parish on Cherry.

Lee says when it comes to her business, things went from bad to worse during the height of COVID-19.

“You’re charging every credit card and calling to get things maxed out and raise your limits and I’ve never experienced this in my life,” she said

Like other restaurant owners, she ultimately had to close doors for months under a statewide mandate. Misty Lamb was bartending at Parish at the time, but even with unemployment she came up short.

“I took about a two to $300 a week pay cut,” Lamb said.

Once full barstools at Parish on 2nd are now empty, as restaurant owners hope more customers will return to dining rooms amid the pandemic. (Amyre Makupson )

She was stuck facing a financial and mental strain that she wasn’t expecting.

“I’m a very strong independent woman and I do for myself. And I’ve always tried to do for myself and my son, who’s 19. And it just it a depression hits in and you can’t explain it.”

Kinjo Kitchen was just preparing to open its doors for business when the pandemic hit.

“Opening up and then having over 100 reservations in two days that you then have to turn around and cancel. Nobody can spend money on alcohol or curbside so yeah, we absolutely lost the potential to earn a lot of money,” said Chelsea Hughes, the co-owner of Kinjo Kitchen.

Hughes was able to recover some of the lost income with a quick pivot from dining room seating to curbside pick-up, but even that was far from easy.

“It has been challenging, you know, trying to make numbers make sense and trying to account for the normal things that you account for in a restaurant labor cost, food costs, liquor cost, everything is pretty skewed because we’re at half capacity and you know, walk-ins aren’t what they should be,” said Hughes.

With an unsure future ahead, both restaurants are doing whatever they can to survive the pandemic

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