Restaurants were the hardest hit of the “essential” businesses allowed to remain open when the hospitality businesses – of which restaurants are a subset - were abruptly shuttered at almost a moment’s notice.
Today, those restaurants continue to be under siege due to the continuing governmental mandates and the high fees charged by delivery services. Many of our local restaurants are just hanging on by a thread and as this pandemic continues to prevail, the future does not look bright. Many restaurants have shortened hours, and some have canceled lunch service to be able to remain open a few days a week.
Although the governmental committee that set the standard of what businesses were deemed essential recognized the importance of the restaurants as a major source of food by allowing them to remain open, they did not take into account all the repercussions associated with take-out only, then later allowing a re-opening for inside dining mandating no more than a 50 percent capacity or 50 persons for any venue that holds more than 100 persons.
They did not understand the frustration of diners who were forced to wear masks and confining dining to groups of no more than six, thus many family celebrations were cancelled. They further did not understand the reluctance of the restaurant employees to be the “heavy” turning away those who were without masks, thus turning away welcome revenue.
The National Restaurant Association research indicates most restaurants run on a profit margin where 5 percent is considered healthy. That’s a slim margin to begin with and for many now, there is almost no margin of profit.
The non-chain restauranteurs who choose to open a local eatery do so because they love food and to serve and feed people. For them, preparing meals is an art form to be shared. Today, finding a local venue for lunch has become a challenge. And, Mondays have become bring your lunch to the office day, for most restaurants are closed. Sunday brunch is now a relic of the past. As for the Happy Hour, we’ve forgotten what that vibe was, but understand the need to protect those who choose to dine out.
Restaurants add significantly to our overall quality of life yet many diners do not realize the importance of restaurants and other hospitality businesses to any community since it is expected that restaurants will be there when we desire to eat out or celebrate special occasions. Even as visitors to another community, the first thing we ask of our host or concierge is to direct us to the most popular dining spot.
Carson’s restaurants are not only under siege by the many restrictions and new operating costs imposed to them by state and local governmental agencies, they are also under siege by the third party delivery services, some of which charge a 30 percent delivery fee to be borne by the restaurant along with a delivery fee and possible tip to be born by the customer. Those fees and charges make Grubhub and the other national delivery services lots of money. They get richer while the local restaurants continue to struggle. Yet, restaurant management feel they must pay these exorbitant fees to survive.
Some communities and major cities have enacted temporary ordinances to reduce the enormous fees by third party vendors charged to restaurants. Some of the delivery services have complied, though some such as Grubhub have circumvented the ordinance by reducing the fee, instead adding a marketing charge that brings the total back to the 30 percent. Many of the national delivery services have no license to operate in the communities they serve. Although we asked, Carson City is not considering issuing any temporary ordinance.
Those who are Netflixers and Foodies may know of world food icon David Chang, host of the documentary “Ugly Decisions,” who pleads, “Without government intervention, there will be no service industry whatsoever.” He further states, the only restaurants to survive may be the big chains thus we are going “to eradicate the very eclectic mix that makes America and going out to eat so vibrant and great.”
We ask you that when you crave a meal from your favorite eatery but don’t want to eat out choosing to rather eat in, find a designated foodie driver within the household to pick up your yummy food and help your local restaurants remain a local treasure. Save them the 30 percent. As we continue to improve our downtown and our city, we can’t afford to lose even one restaurant, for we have worked so hard to attract them.
Ronni Hannaman is the Executive Director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce and believes restaurants are an integral part of our overall quality of life.