Union Square Hospitality Group will lay off some 2,000 people today — 80% of its staff — the New York City-based company said.
CEO Danny Meyer will forego his salary completely and every executive team member will take a “significant” pay cut, a company spokesperson said.
However, USHG will continue to cover employee premiums for medical insurance through mid-April for those currently enrolled.
Additionally, the company, which operates around 20 restaurants, including culinary landmarks Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and The Modern has created an employee relief fund, seeded by Meyer, to help former team members facing significant financial hardship. That fund is being seeded by Meyer and other executives. The company said all funds from gift cards sold for the restaurants through March 24 also will go to that fund.
USHG completely closed all of its restaurants after dinner service on Sunday, March 15.
Meyer made the following statement:
“In the 35-year history of Union Square Hospitality Group, this is, without a doubt, the most challenging period any of us has ever encountered as leaders. Reconciling who we are as a people-first company with this brutal moment is nearly impossible.
“We’ve successfully led through and weathered 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, but at no other point has there been such a sustained and massive dual threat to both the physical safety and economic livelihoods of our people, or the hospitality industry as a whole. We’ve always endeavored to put our people first, and so to conduct such a massive layoff of our cherished colleagues today leaves me gutted. Never could I have fathomed a time where the only path forward would be to lay people off so they can receive unemployment, while this company fights to see another day when we can return to our full staffing levels.
“I said to my team last week that this is a time requiring both reality and hope, and today that is truer than ever. The reality is that we’ve had to make drastic and previously unimaginable choices for how we conduct business just to protect our team and our communities. The reality is that in doing so, our revenues have been decimated, and the foundation of our business has been seriously tested. In the absence of income, restaurants simply cannot pay our non-working team members for more than a short period of time without becoming insolvent. In that scenario, no one wins.
“We have created a relief fund to help the employees affected by the layoffs today. To seed the effort, I’m immediately contributing my entire compensation, and our executive team is taking a meaningful pay cut. We will use these funds and other donations we collect to help those on our team that will face significant financial hardship in the weeks to come. Through March 24, 100% of the revenue generated by USHG gift cards purchased on our site will be directed toward that fund. We ask that friends of USHG restaurants join us in this effort.
“However, we cannot depend simply on the generosity of our community alone. If ever there were a time to call on the government to provide enlightened leadership, it is now. Our employees need that support to sustain their livelihoods while waiting for our restaurants to reopen. I am calling on our city, state, and federal leadership to step in with a full emergency relief package for restaurant and bar workers, and I pledge my immediate service — on behalf of, and along with other industry leaders — to help come up with economic solutions that work for all. Our industry is both a significant employer and contributor to the fabric of life in New York.
“There remains hope. Hope that this virus will be defeated. Hope that with the help of our government, we can find a way to create meaningful economic safeguards for all hospitality employees who have been forced out of their work. Hope that before too long, they will safely be able to come back to work alongside the people they love and to serve the public who love our restaurants. Hope that this industry itself will still be standing. Hope that the challenging steps we’re taking today will allow us to get back together, delighting our guests, investing in our communities, and buying products from our suppliers as soon as possible. My team and I are working diligently — using our heads and our hearts — to find every possible solution to this set of challenges. We cannot wait to bring our team back home to work.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
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