The restaurant industry might look a lot different once we come out of this pandemic. As social distancing and lockdowns ripple across the nation in an attempt to fight COVID-19, some restaurants won’t be able to handle the lack of income and might tip into bankruptcy. Some might never reopen again. Earlier today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo implemented a 90-day moratorium, or temporary prohibition, on evictions for residents and businesses such as restaurants.
Ayr Muir, the owner of Clover, a chain of veggie-friendly fast food joints, filed for unemployment recently. Clover is on hiatus but is working to connect its farmers and suppliers directly to customers to help them stay afloat.
“It’s easy to say ‘there’s unemployment benefits’ or ‘there are SBA loans,’ but when you get down to the details it’s a lot more nuanced,” Muir said. “I have staff who are scared to apply for government benefits, some fear it will impact their legal status, like if you’re here on a student visa. And the process can be really confusing.”
He says he filled out his own unemployment application the other day but isn’t sure he did it correctly. “This just adds to the feeling of uncertainty and stress.”
Entrepreneurs from all over the country are trying to unlock different ways to help vulnerable local restaurants buy themselves some time. It’s often in the form of purchasing gift cards from your favorite neighborhood spots.
The trend, much like other ways big tech is helping others out during this pandemic through free promos or access to services, can be looked at in two ways. First, it’s a way to make this transition less stressful. Second, and perhaps more cynically thanks to capitalism, offering free services is a way to pipeline eventual customers down the road.