“For the last 19 years, I’ve run a small brunch-centric restaurant in Kansas City, Succotash. l, like most of my peers, have seen some sh*t. And yet, if I’m being perfectly honest, little of it would have predicted a moment like this.
And it is painful.
Restaurateurs are going to live and die by the choices we make over the coming weeks. Not choices mandated to us, but choices we make with the public’s greater good in mind. What can we do as an industry to shift to a safer model of operating that provides (at least in part) for our staff and community? These choices are excruciatingly difficult.
This thought reels around in my head as I struggle to find the answers. I am not alone. The service industry is now bracing for an unprecedented disruption the likes of which we have never seen. It’s only starting to sink in for some. Though for many, it is all we have been able to consider.
Like it or not, the service industry is without safety nets. Our margins are notoriously slim even in the best of times. It may be tempting for some to ignore social distancing and push the limits of what is allowable. Each of us are all struggling with our versions of what that looks like. My staff and community mean everything to me. The landscape of our food industry is going to change profoundly. I’m worried for so many of us.
My goal is to take care of my staff to the best of my ability—and that keeps me up at night. My business exists only because of them and my primary thought is how do I protect and provide for them when my own future is uncertain? I am a small business owner with no partners, no lines of credit. My liquidity is finite. There are no easy answers. Instead there are merely gray areas in which restaurateurs can get lost. Please be kind to people as they navigate this new normal.
The inevitable forced closing of restaurants has happened. It wasn’t a matter of if—only of when. Like many of my peers, my restaurant has shifted to a takeout, curbside delivery model effective immediately—something my staff encouraged me to do. Some restaurant owners are doing the same, others are opting to close hoping this will pass sooner than later. Every day brings a new challenge with so much information coming at us. If you are food insecure, let us know and we will help. Our menu will be available immediately for takeout. I am also putting together larger family-sized meals, meal kits, and juices that can be picked up or delivered to your front porch.
At the end of the day we are just human. None of us has all the answers in this ever-evolving crisis, but we know that we need your help if we’re going to return to any sense of normality. Already, many have reached out and asked how to help. I would ask you to keep visiting your local eateries through pickup and delivery. Purchase gift cards for future use and tip generously—if you are able. Share what you have with those around you. Lend a helping hand. Reach out if you need help. Food and familiarity can bring comfort.
And know that I can’t wait to see you and hug you in the not-too-distant future.”
—Beth Barden is the owner/operator of Succotash