Unplugging the nation’s economy, even temporarily, has had an astounding effect on independent restaurants across the country. For hundreds of thousands of restaurant operators out there, the coronavirus pandemic has been a period of extreme frustration, agonizing decisions, fear and stress.
But for many it has also been a time to embrace family and community, an opportunity for innovation and a chance to reset.
We wanted to hear your stories from the front lines, so we asked operators across the country to share dispatches from the front lines. We’re sharing them here and continuing to receive more.
Chefs and restaurateurs walked us through how they approached decisions with no right answers, and state and local guidelines still in flux. Some overhauled their business models to keep the doors open. Others decided to temporarily close entirely. Many were forced to cut staff and then rebuild. And operational practices must now include extensive safety protocols to protect both staff and guests.
We began this series in May to shine a light on our communities’ stories, and in July expanded our definition of “front lines.” The U.S. has faced renewed calls for social justice since the death of George Floyd, and the restaurant industry is stepping up efforts to embrace diversity and inclusion. For many, the pandemic pause has offered an opportunity to rethink how to create a more equitable workplace.
Operators and workers ultimately shared with us how they’re coping personally, and what future they see for their businesses and the industry.
The stories here display the courage, resiliency and generosity of those in the restaurant industry.
If you have a story you'd like to share, please e-mail Holly at [email protected].
Tinku Saini, Tarka Indian Kitchen
Brian Toll and John Terzian, The H.Wood Group
Aaron Staudenmaier, Whiskey Cake
Falguni and Ali Dewjee, Bombay Wraps
John Secretan, Zinc Café & Market
Karl Franz Williams, 67 Orange Street, Anchor Spa
Tom Bené, National Restaurant Association
Marc Glosserman, Hill Country Barbecue Market
Aaron Deal, The River and Rail
Frank S. Vellucci, Sweetcatch Poke
Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod, Rasa
Elizabeth Blau, Blau Associates
Nikky Phinyawatana, Asian Mint
Frank Ostini, The Hitching Post II Restaurant and Winery
Drew Ward, Artisanal Brewing Ventures
Brendan Vesey, Botanica Restaurant and Gin Bar
Alan Sternberg, Common House Supper Club
Sam Marvin, Echo & Rig and Pluck
Mark Ellman, Honu and Frida’s Beach House
Andrew Faour, The Pub at Chino Hills
Matt Gottlieb and Robert Quick, il Bracco
Delores Tronco-DePierro, The Banty Rooster