COVID-19 spawns creativity with restaurateurs

Colorado's stay-at-home order has restaurants doing about 10% of their normal business
Covid 19 Spawns Creativity With Restaurateurs
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Since Colorado’s stay-at-home order was issued in March, restaurants “are doing about 10% of the business they’ve done before,” consultant John Imbergamo says. “They’re trying to innovate and be clever and do new things, but there’s just this fire hose of people doing clever and new, so it’s really hard to get messages out.”

Not that it’s a polar shift from the pre-pandemic era, he adds. “It was very, very hard to staff, and because we were paying quite a bit more, it was very, very difficult to make a nickel.”

It follows that COVID-19 was the final straw for many restaurateurs. “The pandemic has probably accelerated some decisions for people in terms of closing down,” Imbergamo says. “There’s a subsector of the market that will never come back, and that’s buffets. Never’s a bad term, but it’s going to be a long time before anybody’s comfortable doing that.”

While the labor situation “is going to be different after we’re allowed to reopen,” he adds, “I think any projections of where we’re going to be in six months are essentially a waste of breath.”

Steven Cook of Broadway Real Estate says he sees independent restaurants better equipped for the pandemic fallout. “The mom-and-pops and small entrepreneurs, they can get creative and be flexible and adjust with the times,” he says. “Then you’ve got Starbucks, who are sending letters basically bullying people and saying, ‘Hey, we’re not going to pay the rent that’s in their lease. Take it or leave it.'”

At the other end of the spectrum, Euro Crepes, a Cook tenant on South Broadway, has just one location. “They’re going to do everything they can to survive,” Cook says.

The Big Red F Restaurant Group’s 13 restaurants in Colorado “are going to take things very slowly,” founder Dave Query says. “It’s going to be very challenging, it’s going to be very scary for people.”

Part of it depends on seating restrictions, he adds. “No bar seats and 25% of capacity just doesn’t work. So we’ll probably stay in a to-go-only mode until things calm down a little bit — which they will.”

Categories: COVID-19, Industry Trends, Real Estate