Restaurants and the Pandemic: An Inside View

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Stephanie Zhang, Junior Staff Editor

When COVID-19 first arrived in the United States in early 2020, restaurants and the food service industry were one of the first to be heavily impacted. As state-mandated social distancing guidelines first took effect, restaurants — especially smaller and independently operated ones — have suffered a devastating hit as many of them relied on the traffic of people to survive and thrive. Without the constant stream of customers, these businesses had to lay off employees or close due to the loss of revenue. As someone whose parents own a small Chinese restaurant, the results of the pandemic have been clear. Here is an inside look at a small business that has been impacted by COVID-19. 

One of the most noticeable effects of the virus would be the decreasing number of customers. As time progressed after the first social distancing guidelines were imposed, the number of customers who ordered from our restaurant was alarmingly low. From experience working there, a normal Friday night would be bustling with hungry customers and ringing phones. However, once the pandemic hit, the phone calls slowed and there were virtually no walk-in customers. “It was disheartening and frustrating, to say the least,” recalls my dad.  

In fact, the loss of revenue was so bad, it made more financial sense to close the restaurant for a month. During that month, my parents worked to revamp the place, making it more “social distance friendly”. Customers were no longer permitted to walk up to the counter to place an order. They were stopped by a barricade of tables and a plastic barrier. While it made taking orders more of a hassle, it definitely reduced the contact we had with customers. Once we reopened, we made it a requirement for everyone in the facility to wear masks and wash their hands more often. In addition, after closing early every night, we would sanitize all surfaces. 

Slowly but surely, as the pandemic progressed, we were able to regain some traction. Customers are once again ordering, opting to call in beforehand and pick up their orders to minimize contact. Friday nights have become busy again—enough to keep us afloat—but still not to the extent of those in pre-COVID-19 times. Even so, my family and I are grateful for the condition our restaurant is currently in and the support of those who order. “Businesses like us are more vulnerable in times like this,” reminds my dad. “This is why it is important to always support small businesses.”