From the editor: Facing the future together

As the industry confronts its greatest challenge, we promise to be here for restaurants, their operators and their employees.
corona closed restaurant
Photograph: Shutterstock

For much of the past month, the country has taken steps to protect our most vulnerable citizens from the coronavirus.

Restaurants have been on the front lines. As the federal jobs report demonstrated this week, the industry has borne the brunt of the economic impact of the shutdown. It’s very likely that several million people lost their restaurant jobs. Thousands of locations are already permanently closed. Others could follow.

It’s a collective disaster, too. Almost nobody has been spared its ill effects, whether it’s Floriole, a single artisan bakery in Chicago that closed its doors last month and laid off its 35 workers, or McDonald’s, the burger giant based in the same city that has vowed to keep its franchisees afloat.

Our job at Restaurant Business is to chronicle this event as best we can, working through our own challenges to ensure this industry has the information it needs to get through it, and hopefully emerge on the other side.

What’s become clear to all of us is just how much this business means to us. Restaurants are our lifeblood. Without the industry and its operators, after all, we could not exist.

The people who operate those restaurants are our colleagues and friends. We have only recently met some of them. Others we’ve known for years.

We’ve listened to these folks detail one of the more difficult periods of their lives. They are people such as Ed Doherty, founder of Applebee’s and Panera Bread franchisee Doherty Enterprises, who spent last month telling people he’s known for decades that he had to let them go.

“I probably cried, my wife probably cried three times that day as we were going through this, and I’m calling people that I’ve known for a long time and I’m telling them,” he said on our “A Deeper Dive” podcast.

Or Randy Dewitt, CEO of Front Burner Restaurants, who acknowledged that before this, he could count on his fingers the number of times he’d cried. “By next week, I’ll probably use up all of my toes,” he told Editor-at-Large Peter Romeo.

And we spoke with Jeremy Lieb, who along with his wife sold everything to start Sacred Beast in Cincinnati two years ago, only to watch it all vanish. “My family is here, too,” he told Editor Heather Lalley. “I’ve got to be a leader, but I want to cry.”

We spoke with numerous workers who detailed the challenges they face now that they have been left jobless by their employers. Many of these people have not only been left without a check, but also without a lifestyle, something that fit their personalities. “I like bartending,” Claire Pipia said. “I like having a customer base with the regulars.”

We will continue to chronicle these stories. We will also continue to tell the brutal truth about what is happening to the restaurant industry.

But restaurants are loaded with creative people, and as Senior Editor Patricia Cobe has been writing, the industry has been at its creative best, finding ways to get through this crisis. They’ve come up with incredible ideas to help them generate any sales they can.

They’ve also been helpful, supplying hospitals and hospital workers with food and banding together to help employees and others who are struggling through a suddenly difficult time.

This is our industry. And we will help our friends and colleagues get through this crisis.

On our page today, you will find a detailed list of resources designed to help operators and employees get the help they need. The page was put together by some of the fantastic people who run events for Restaurant Business’ parent company, Winsight, including Carol Walden, Katie McLarty and Taylor Moschcau.

Operators can also learn how to apply for federal loans designed to get them through the next few months. And they can find links to state efforts to help them through this crisis, as painstakingly detailed by senior editors Joe Guszkowski and Kristina Peters.

We will continue to provide these sorts of resources as we find them.

On a personal note, I’d have hoped that my first letter to you in my role as editor-in-chief of Restaurant Business, a job I quietly assumed six weeks ago, would have come during a happier period. Unfortunately, we do not get to choose when such events hit us.

But we promise that we will be right here for all of you, detailing these challenges and helping you through them, for as long as possible. We are all in this together.

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