The Spread of COVID-19 Impacts the Restaurant Industry

The hit to New York’s restaurant industry from the novel coronavirus has been fast and devastating. It has brought all of us to a grinding halt. With number of cases continuing to grow exponentially, schools, events, and conferences have shutdown and corporate offices have everyone working from home. Because so many restaurants rely on catering, this situation has dramatically impacted their bottom lines. Thus, thousands across the country have permanently closed their doors and layed off their employees. Only a few are still open for delivery.

The outbreak of coronavirus disease has led many to stress and panic – taking serious measures for their well-being. Social-distancing and minimum bare contact with surfaces are some. Fear of coming in contact with strangers has raised concerns about whether or not it is safe to order delivery from restaurants, for example. But during an interview, Marta Hugas (EFSA’s chief scientist) explained: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.” The most common transmission method is a “droplet infection”, where coronaviruses are emitted by humans or animals into the air via droplets and then inhaled. No cases of humans being infected through the consumption of food has been released. This can be attributed to restaurants following the precautionary recommendations including washing hands before/after food handling and preparation, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods. Moreover, “as the viruses are sensitive to heat, the risk of infection can also be further reduced by heating foods” – German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

The food industry plays a critical role in national and international economies, and is the one feeling the greatest impact of all industries. “From sourcing and supply chain to staffing and sanitation, forced closures and social distancing” ( Life & Thyme ). As one coffee shop owner in North Idaho explained: “We don’t know what to do. If things don’t get better in the next few days, we’re screwed. Gone. Out of business. 12 years of being known as the community’s favorite quirky coffee shop down the tubes because of a pandemic”. Unfortunately, the spread of the virus has led to constitute the “largest disruption the hospitality industry has faced since major events like the September 11 terrorist attacks, the 2008 financial crisis, and Hurricane Sandy”. All of these small restaurants do not have the resources to endure this economic crisis, that has yet to ease its grip, by themselves…

Restaurants, now more than ever, need support at any level. The mayor of New York mentioned “new no-interest loans for small businesses that experience a 25 percent decline or more due to new coronavirus”, the U.S. Small Business Administration is planning to offer small business owners across the U.S. “as much as $50 billion in loans to stay afloat”, Grubhub and other delivery companies have suspended most of their fees, and advocate groups are donating either through organizations or by purchasing gift-cards. These shutdowns have definitely been an unprecedented decision for cities like New York that depend on its restaurant community for daily nourishments, celebrations, entertainments and excitements.

This is to say that food-lovers should do their part immediately to help support these businesses – order delivery as its still considered safe, tip generously, buy gift cards, and reschedule rather than cancel prepaid reservations. At FoodtoEat, we have created two funding initiatives (GoFundMe and IFundWomen) to help our restaurant partners stay afloat during these hard times. Corporate companies and individual can invest their dollars to buy meals through us that will later be donated to shelters/schools/food banks. As important it is to understand how we can all protect ourselves, we must feel empathy for those who have been seriously impacted. This is not something restaurant owners will bounce back from easily, especially without adequate support. The world needs to truly understand the fragility of the restaurant ecosystem, and take action to help mitigate that. As a concierge catering service that partners with women, immigrant, and minority owned food vendors, it is time to play our strengths – and our strength is feeding people.

 

Bibliography

Ferrari, Stef. “Coronavirus: Perspective on a Pandemic.” Life & Thyme, 16 Mar. 2020, lifeandthyme.com/commentary/coronavirus-perspectives-on-a-pandemic/?mc_cid=8febf1b04f&mc_eid=225802534c.

Sutton, Ryan. “Cuomo Announces Tri-State Restaurant and Bar Shutdown Starting Monday Night.” Eater NY, Eater NY, 16 Mar. 2020, ny.eater.com/2020/3/15/21180713/restaurant-bar-shutdown-nyc-coronavirus.

Krietsch, Beth. “Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Food? Here’s What You Should Know.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 5 Mar. 2020, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/coronavirus-food-what-to-know_l_5e600d6bc5b644545ea4913b.

Southey, Flora. “Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted via Imported Food?” Foodnavigator.com, William Reed Business Media Ltd., 5 Feb. 2020, http://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/02/05/Can-coronavirus-be-transmitted-via-imported-food.

Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-07/restaurants-clean-like-crazy-to-beat-covid-19-eat-at-home-trend.

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