France and Spain closed down all of their restaurants as part of drastic countrywide restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Spain ordered all citizens to contain themselves in their homes except to obtain food or medical care, according to The New York Times. The country had 5,753 cases of COVID-19 as of March 14. Restaurants and most shops are closed in France, where 91 people have died from the virus.
“We are certainly dealing with an unprecedented situation,” said Joe Pawlak, managing principal for Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. “In France and Spain, restaurant and cafe culture is a daily part of life. Closing restaurants will not only disrupt routines but change the fabric of those societies themselves until they reopen.”
The cities of Berlin and Cologne in Germany both also ordered the closure of bars, theaters and other public entertainment venues, CNN reported. Restaurants are remaining opens in those communities.
The World Health Organization has called Europe the epicenter of the pandemic. The organization’s coronavirus dashboard displays a count of confirmed cases and deaths with a map showing the 135 countries where the virus has spread.
The drastic measures in Europe come as U.S. restaurants are already bracing for a grim spring amid the coronavirus concerns.
“It’s difficult to look at the next few weeks and not see steeply declining sales and with them closed restaurants,” Restaurant Business Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Maze wrote in his recent column. “Chains in China were hammered after that country’s draconian steps to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
Restaurants in South Korea and Japan were also hit hard, with sales falling 50% or more in many cases and some locations shutting down altogether.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer temporarily shuttered all 19 of his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) restaurants in New York City due to the coronavirus, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe.
He made the announcement Friday, sharing on Twitter that his goal was to be proactive.
“By fully facing this storm today, we hope to return to serving our guests sooner than later,” he tweeted. “Our entire team cannot wait for that moment.”
Restaurant Business will be sharing ongoing coverage of how the pandemic is affecting the foodservice industry.