Analysts are still painting a gloomy picture for the restaurant industry, as it’s been clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the last week, I’ll note that Pizza Fresca by Lamberti at 703 Chestnut St.; Condiment, a prepared-foods shop in Reading Terminal Market; and LALO, the Filipino stand at the Bourse, announced closings. Add these to the recent shutdowns of R2L in Center City, Farmicia in Old City, Mad River in Manayunk, and Vitarelli’s in Cherry Hill, as well as Toll Man Joe’s and Sate Kampar in South Philly, Bourbon Blue in Manayunk, and the B. Good fast-casual locations.
So far, as the lockdowns and restrictions are entering their fifth month, outright closings have been relatively few — a fairly typical churn for that time period. In some cases, it’s semantics. Some owners who say their restaurants are “temporarily closed” have not officially pulled the plug. Many restaurateurs have tried to offer takeout but encountered staff illness, or realized that the drop in sales simply was not sustainable.
But though more than 8 million restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed, and the industry has lost $120 billion in sales by the end of May, according to the National Restaurant Association, the real pain is yet to come.
As a Center City white-tablecloth bar-restaurant owner told me: “It’s not whether restaurants can open for indoor service, it’s who will be there to serve,” he wrote. “Outdoor dining is weather-dependent and shortly after Labor Day it becomes erratic. Then the Jewish holidays. Then what?”
“Then what?“ has become a common refrain since March 16, when restaurants’ dining rooms were closed by government order after a week of trepidation. They have reopened in certain areas, in fits and starts, with reduced capacity. As outdoor dining has been allowed, meanwhile, it has been accompanied by spikes in the virus in some areas.
Meanwhile, the daytime crowds are down, and tourism is virtually nonexistent.
“Most office tenants are working remotely or companies are scheduling two weeks on, two weeks off for social distancing,” the bar-restaurant owner said. “There are no private affairs being booked through the end of the year, since the size of parties has been limited and people simply want to stay at home.