Feeling like 2020 cannot end soon enough? Shut-downs, phases, and the long list of new rules for businesses to follow have taken a toll. The reality of long-term closures, even with the current modifications, has gripped the industry with a relentless hold. According to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association, nearly 1 in 6 restaurants (representing nearly 100,000 restaurants) is closed either permanently or long-term; nearly 3 million employees are still out of work; and the industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the end of the year. (restaurant.org) With the restaurant industry at the forefront of the pandemic’s economic demise, recovery is expected to take years, possibly decades. What does the industry look like post COVID? As the days have turned into weeks and the weeks have turned into months, many have questioned the future of the businesses they have worked and sacrificed their lives for. Years of nights, weekends and holidays invested in an industry built on community support gone almost overnight.
Is there a silver lining in the gravity of complete and utter devastation caused by a world crisis? Embracing change and pivoting to new business models proved to be a theme for 2020. Many chose to dig in and grind at a pace more labor intensive than ever before. Innovation and new ideas surfaced and moved a nation to create, rebuild and lend a hand to help others in need. Families spent more time together and found themselves in the kitchen working on meals while forced to dine at home. Usual routines filled with work, ball games and outings were all but scrapped. The country was forced to find ways to entertain rambunctious children, feed hungry housemates and survive without the usual access to provisions.
So, when asked if there is a silver lining for me as I shifted from fully booked months of catering and a staffed kitchen to government halted events and skeleton crews for daily operations, my answer was, remarkably, yes. My silver lining through all this was embracing and putting to use the many teachings from my late grandparents. The story of losing and yet getting back in the game is very evident in the stories they passed on to me. Both my grandparents were hard-working entrepreneurs. They both survived the Great Depression and raised 4 children while my grandfather was enlisted in World War II. My grandfather’s own mother died of the Spanish Flu when he was only 4. They were no stranger to being dealt a bad hand and moving on with life regardless. From summers spent with them growing and harvesting a vegetable garden, making toys and games from natural materials, and appreciating the quiet with daydreaming or napping, I learned simple life lessons which came in handy during the pandemic.
The summer of 2020 was a circus of sorts. I compare it to walking the tight rope with no net while juggling my family, my business and my sanity. There were also many positives from this unprecedented time. Engaging the family in the kitchen at work and home seemed to keep them occupied with tasks that doubled as learning. We also planted a wild-flower garden which ended up being harvested as beautiful flowers added to a few plates for dinner parties and photo shoots. Most of all, we sat together at the dinner table, turned off the television, put the cell phones on silent, and talked to each other. The reward was the seemingly endless hours of conversation spent over empty plates and full bellies. I learned so much about my “tribe” and what makes us all tick – and what areas we need to work on as a family to enhance our daily living. We are all still living in this crazy world, just in a different way.
As for the industry I chose as a career and have given 25 years of my life to, I am optimistic our industry will rally and return stronger than before. What drives me to return each day is my love for community and service to each customer who supports my business. I deeply appreciate the interactions with industry peers, customers, vendors, and the long list of each business associated with the restaurant industry. It is a family of friends and competitors. It is my family aside from my family at home and I want us all to prosper.
God bless us all and cheers to a new year with a fresh start!
The Gilded Artichoke
GBR Chapter President 2020