Not All Restaurants Are in a Rush to Reopen Their Dining Rooms

Cities and states anxious to jumpstart their economies with a return to indoor food service are discovering a surprising reality: Some restaurants prefer to keep their dining rooms closed for now.

With many customers still fearful of public spaces and reopening guidelines in flux, restaurants big and small are delaying resumption of dine-in service in favor of takeout. Some establishments, like Scott Crawford’s restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, are even voluntarily re-closing dining areas to keep costs in check.

“We are definitely losing less money with curbside than we were losing when we were open for dine-in,” said Crawford, who owns Crawford and Son. His other restaurant, Jolie, remains open for both dining and takeout.

Not All Restaurants Are in a Rush to Reopen Their Dining Rooms

Eateries have overhauled their business models to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic, embracing delivery and carryout, rather than the traditional dine-in model that used to sustain them. Others have added outdoor dining or are even selling groceries directly to consumers. Many restaurants don’t have the financial resources or staffing to do it all at once.

A survey released last month by the National Restaurant Association showed 75% of restaurants didn’t expect to turn a profit over the next six months, meaning they need to find ways to trim costs, and indoor dining is often on the chopping block.

“It’s not profitable because your costs are too high to cover the sales that you’re bringing in with a half-filled dining room,” said Michael Halen, senior restaurant analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “It’s very hard to make money that way.”

Reopening dining rooms in a pandemic means higher costs for little reward. Customers are choosing where to eat in part based on cleaning policies, forcing companies with indoor dining rooms to spend more on cleaning supplies and safety items such as Plexiglass barriers, plus additional staff. That’s a big expense in exchange for not a lot of checks: Goosefeather in Tarrytown, New York, for example, reports only 10 parties in the past three weeks have wanted to sit inside.

‘Not Worth Reopening’

For Victoria Kemp, the co-owner of Florence’s Restaurant in Oklahoma City, the decision of when to reopen is extremely personal. She works alongside her 89-year-old mother, whose age puts her in a high-risk group for Covid-19. Kemp has trimmed the menu to save money and is trying to get by on takeout and delivery orders, and she hasn’t had a customer in the dining room since March 17.

“When I weigh the risks, it is not worth reopening right now,” she said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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