Covid and the Restaurant Industry.

I got laid off this year. Twice. From the same job. At first this sounds pretty crazy, but it’s 2020 and I work at a Spanish tapas restaurant in Philadelphia. I work at Amada, Chef Jose Garces’s flagship restaurant in Old City. Amada opened in 2005 and has been a hit since then. For the first time in its 15 year history, Amada has had to close its doors for almost six months because of Covid 19. There was a light at the end of a very dark tunnel in July. The city of Philadelphia was providing permits allowing restaurants to place tables in the street, and even closing streets that were highly populated by restaurants. Amada was part of the street closure of 2nd street between Market and Chestnut streets. Business was far from our busiest, but it was the slow season. We were doing pretty well for the circumstances. Then the world came crashing down again in the middle of November. New mandates from the city of Philadelphia prohibited indoor dining just in time for the cold winter months. Without heaters, or any real outdoor structures, Amada was once again closing its doors, unsure of its future, and laying off all of their hourly employees for the second time in 2020.

Amada Phl pre covid 19

Covid-19 has been sweeping through the United States since March. This has led to mask mandates and shutdowns across the country. One of the industries that has been impacted the most is the restaurant industry. Restaurants were first shut down in March. Energetic, bustling dining rooms turned into quiet, deserted spaces in less than a day. Restaurants have been trying their best shifting to take out orders, joining new delivery services, and expanding their outdoor seating as much as possible. Still at the front of everyone’s mind is safety, not just that of patrons, but employees as well. Restaurants are already tumultuous places to work, very few of which provide health insurance or any paid sick leave. Balancing the expectations of guests along with following safety guidelines had been a challenge restaurants have never faced before. 

Philly chef and restaurateur, Marc Vetri, has been incredibly outspoken on his twitter. He has been active retweeting and liking posts as well as tweeting himself about his frustrations with the federal government, Governor Wolf, and Mayor Kenny. Vetri stands firm on his beliefs- the actions being taken are harmful, and hurting the restaurant industry. Vetri owns several restaurants in Philadelphia and has felt the effects of covid first hand. He is in the same boat as many chefs and restaurateurs in the city and around the world: they are just trying to keep their doors open and stay afloat. When restaurants were allowed to begin operating outdoor dining in Philadelphia during the summer they were operating at less than their maximum capacity. Restaurants who typically had upwards of 40 tables were operating with less than half of that in their outdoor dining spaces. 

Tweet liked by Marc Vetri
Tweeted by Marc Vetri

In an article for The Philadelphia Inquirer Avram Hornik, the owner of Morgan’s Pier, stated “I believe that if the city worked closely with restaurant owners, we could come up with safe and creative solutions to keep our businesses open and minimize the spread of the virus.” This sentiment is felt by restaurant owners across the city of Philadelphia. Decisions are being made about their livelihood, and decisions that greatly impact their employees, and they have no input. Restaurants across the city have worked tirelessly to meet all covid safety guidelines. Many restaurants have been installing plexiglass and other physical barriers to create more safe seating inside their restaurants. Jose Garces’s resturant The Olde Bar located in the historic Bookbinders building created Fourteen private dining nooks to accommodate their guests. 

Private Dining Nooks at The Olde Bar

There have been countless casualties caused by covid. #CLOSEDINPHL is a website that allows the user to track the status of restaurants across the city. It shows which restaurants are temporarily closed and which restaurants are permanently closed. One of the biggest losses to the restaurant scene in Philadelphia is City Tavern. City Tavern was located in a building owned by The National Park Service. The building was built in 1773 and restored in 1976 to line up with The United States’s bicentennial. The restaurant served colonial style food and their servers were dressed in costumes to fit the time period as well. City Tavern was a large tourist attraction, and with covid and the lockdowns and travel bans they lost most of their business and could no longer continue operating. City Tavern was a staple in the Old City community for over 20 years. Old City lost another staple with the closing of Continental Old City. Stephen Starr opened Continental at the corner of 2nd and Market streets in 1995. The martini bar attracted locals and tourists alike, but once again because of covid had to shutter its doors. Small, intimate dining rooms are not compatible with covid guidelines of operation. Although Continental is not closed permanently, it is closed indefinitely. 

Covid has destroyed the restaurant industry, and truthfully, it may never rebound. Chefs, owners, managers, and employees are continuing to do all they can to create amazing guest experiences, but it’s incredibly difficult when they are so limited. Some restaurants are still operating on a dine in capacity outdoor with heat lamps and tents, but as it gets colder business is continuing to dwindle. It’s also incredibly dangerous to not only have guests outside as it gets colder but restaurant staff as well. The restaurant industry is interesting. It is a difficult industry with razor thin profit lines already. Restaurants are doing all they can to break even by offering specials and to go cocktails, beer, and wine, as well as opening pickup and delivery service. The restaurant scene in Philadelphia is changing dramatically because it is losing so many restaurants to covid, and without a relief plan in sight it is only going to get exponentially worse. There are restaurants in the city that have been operating for decades, but their owners are having to make incredibly difficult decisions about their futures.

Works Cited

Avram Hornik, For The Inquirer. “Morgan’s Pier Owner: City Officials Are Leaving Restaurant Owners out of the COVID Conversation: Opinion.” https://www.inquirer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 18, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-coronavirus-restrictions-restaurants-shutdown-20201117.html?utm_campaign=Philly.com+Twitter+Account.

Henninger, Danya. “This Map Tracks Philly COVID Closings at Restaurants and Bars.” Billy Penn. Billy Penn, December 5, 2020. https://billypenn.com/2020/12/05/map-philly-covid-closings-restaurants-bars-closedinphl/?fbclid=IwAR0DOwWnImjAO4ZVukWTjaD9IbUiM6sJiN4KvDiIRhRLCmA2mXNZXHNbzXw.

Kellner, Hans. “Philadelphia Announces New ‘Safer at Home’ Restrictions to Fight Rising COVID-19 Cases: Department of Commerce.” City of Philadelphia, November 16, 2020. https://www.phila.gov/2020-11-16-philadelphia-announces-new-safer-at-home-restrictions-in-response-to-rising-covid-19-cases/.

Klein, Michael. “City Tavern, the Colonial-Theme Restaurant in Old City, Has Closed.” https://www.inquirer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 2, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/food/city-tavern-revolutionary-war-restaurant-philadelphia-walter-staib-chef-old-city-20201102.html?fbclid=IwAR3Nz2_kb7LPzwG9YHoZczhGtdLAOWdQp0IJ5ID62e7zysUi7oahloCTJOU.

Klein, Michael. “Plastic Panels and Dining Nooks? Restaurateurs Are Making Changes to Get Diners Indoors.” https://www.inquirer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 2, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/food/plexiglass-coronavirus-safety-indoor-dining-marc-vetri-jose-garces-olde-bar-fiorella-alba-20201030.html.

“Most Recent Closings.” ClosedinPHL. Accessed December 1, 2020. https://closedinphl.com/.

Staff, Billy Penn. “12 Different Philly Streets Swap Cars for Outdoor Dining This Weekend.” Billy Penn. Billy Penn, September 25, 2020. https://billypenn.com/2020/09/25/philadelphia-outdoor-dining-fall-2020-coronavirus-safety-rittenhouse-midtown-village-old-city-headhouse-italian-market/.

perspective.

Four years from now I hope to be no longer working in restaurants. A large part of why I wanted to do my project on the restaurant industry is because it’s been a major part of my life for the last three years. I think I’ll still have a lot of friends in the industry so I hope to never lose the humanity. Hopefully in four years covid will just be a memory for us. There will definitely still be a lot of emotional attachment because covid has come at such a crazy time. I think with an older perspective I will be less concerned with the things I missed out on and be grateful for all the things I learned by having to adjust my expectations of things.

Thirty years from now I’ll be 51. My biggest fear is getting old and conservative. We’ll have been back to normal for so long I don’t think we’ll bring up covid. Just being an adult will make me think differently. Hopefully I’ll be a home owner with a few young adult children. It will be interesting to see how kids are learning about covid and the trump administration in school.

100 years from now restaurants as we know them may be obsolete. This project may be completely useless or only used historically.

subjectivity and the election

I’m coming at my project as someone who works in a restaurant in a major city. As a cisgender white woman I bring a certain perspective. I don’t face a lot of discrimination in the industry.

This election has been terrifying and still is. I experienced s bit of voter suppression while trying to vote today. This is 2016 all over. Hate and fear are going to win again. I’m having a really hard time writing this because I really am just scared. The country is going to burn no matter who wins, but I don’t think the US will survive another four years of a Trump presidency. The only thing about this election is I know that I will be able to tell my grandchildren I was on the right side of history. I voted for black lives. I voted for a woman’s right to choose. I voted for lgbtq rights. I voted for science. I voted for immigrants rights. I voted to make the world a better place.

our subjects

I think a person is always a historical subject. Every person lives through history. Even at 21, I’ve lived through major historical events. I don’t remember 9-11, but I was alive. I remember when Obama was elected. I have some vague memories of hurricane Katrina. I don’t think there’s a specific set of circumstances that makes someone a historical subject. Every person has lived through historical events, and can even be studied for those. Obviously, there are people that are more major players or would be more ideal to interview or study about certain events. I’m definitely not someone you want to ask about 9-11, or the Bill Clinton presidency. I feel like my project doesn’t have a specific historical subject. My project focuses on the restaurant industry. So many people are in the restaurant industry and are impacted by the restaurant industry by some way. Of course restaurant employees are going to be part of my project. Those people are being impacted the most by covid’s effects on the industry. But also patrons are a huge focus. The way people enjoy restaurants has changed tremendously. People have been turning more towards delivery or take out. In my restaurant, our take out orders and order through caviar, doordash, and ubereats have gone up so much. This time last year we would get very few to go orders. Since going back during covid, we have gotten so many to go orders there have been nights we had to stop accepting them. We are also at a point were people are still opting to sit outside. That alone has changed the industry so much. Last summer my job had four tables outside totaling less than 10 seats. This summer we maxed out at 19 tables outside seating close to 65 people. I think it’s a clear challenge of my project, not only having to focus on restaurants and their employees, but also focusing on patrons and their impact as well. I have several subjects to focus on, and I really want to do them all justice.

midterm

In what ways has the restaurant industry in Philadelphia been affected by covid 19?

I will be looking at the restaurant industry and how it is surviving covid 19. Restaurants have been uniquely affected. Bustling dining rooms turned into sad, deserted rooms in less than a day. Restaurants have been trying their best shifting to take out orders, joining new delivery services, and expanding their outdoor seating as much as possible. Still at the front of everyone’s mind is safety, not just that of patrons, but employees as well. Restaurants are already tumultuous places to work, very few of which provide health insurance or any paid sick leave. Balancing the expectations of guests along with following safety guidelines had been a challenge restaurants  have never faced before. I really want to focus on the restaurants that are thriving and how they did it, as well as the restaurants that could not continue operating. I’ll be focusing on restaurants in Philadelphia for the most part as well as some surrounding  

Format – this can change, but as of now, what type of format do you want to use for your final project?

A 1000-1250 essay in the format of a Washington Post “Made by History” Op-ed

or

An Instagram infographic gallery 

Ladd, Jenn. “What Are the New Rules for Indoor Dining in Philly and Jersey?” https://www.inquirer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/food/new-jersey-philadelphia-indoor-dining-rules-restaurants-servers-customers-20200904.html. 

Jenn Ladd of The Inquirer relays all of the strict guidances restaurants in Philadelphia and South Jersey must abide by now to be open. She goes over all the rules about masks and face shields. She also talks about capacity limitations. Capacity limits are affecting the income level restaurants can reach. Almost all restaurants are operating below full capacity in order to follow the safety guidelines. 

Sweitzer-Lammé, Maddy. “In Memoriam: All the Philly Restaurants That Closed During the Coronavirus Crisis So Far.” Philadelphia Magazine. Philadelphia Magazine, October 2, 2020. https://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/restaurants-closings-coronavirus/?fbclid=IwAR3eapA2_fJV0ikAhjTwH1qgWtvv_fXu5Ays6kliyWZsxW-y1yJnxJTyZDw. 

Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé shares with her readers the long list of Philadelphia restaurants that have succumbed to the coronavirus. Some of them landmarks like the Continental Old City which was a staple at 2nd and Market in Old City for 25 years. The changing guidelines have limited capacity for restaurants. Small dining rooms with tables very close together are no longer viable options. Restaurants that one served 300 people in a night are lucky to hit 100 because of limited outdoor space and social distancing guidelines. Some restaurants are just no longer profitable during the pandemic.  

“COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry.” Governor Tom Wolf, October 13, 2020. https://www.governor.pa.gov/covid-19/restaurant-industry-guidance/.

This source focuses on the guidelines for restaurants reopening during Covid in the state of Pennsylvania. It outlines many of the rules restaurants have to follow to reopen in the safest manner possible. It highlights that these guidelines are meant to help keep both the employees and the public safe. It’s pretty dense government  information, but gives a lot of insight on how restaurants are operating differently during the covid pandemic.  

Alexandra Jones, For the Inquirer. “Reopening Restaurants Is a Death Sentence for Workers and the Industry: Opinion.” https://www.inquirer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 6, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/restaurants-reopening-coronavirus-philadelphia-pennsylvania-industry-workers-20200805.html. 

The source is from the Philadelphia Inquirer. It discusses reopening restaurants and all the risks that come with it. Restaurant employees are faced with two options-  come back to work putting not only themselves but their families at risk, or lose their job. It also puts into perspective restaurateurs choosing money and their business over the health, safety, and well being of not only their staff but the general public as well. Many restaurateurs are looking at two possibilities, remaining closed and maybe staying closed for good, or pretend everything will be okay with reopening. It’s focusing a lot on the possible effects of covid on the restaurant industry.

Klein, Michael. “Philly Restaurants Open inside, a Little: Let’s Eat.” https://www.inquirer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 9, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/food/michael-klein/philly-restaurants-indoor-dining-outdoor-coronavirus-food-steak-48-20200909.html. 

Klein goes over some restaurants open for indoor dining and how they are open. He also provides resources to some other staff writers work. He talked about the experiences of restaurant workers working through the pandemic and how they are being affected by indoor dining and all the changes. 

creating a narrative

The 1918 influenza swept through the United States. Military training camps preparing soldiers for WWI deployment became the perfect environment for the virus to spread. Soldiers were kept in tight quarters, each camp housed anywhere from 25,000 to 55,000 men. In March 1918, 100 soldiers at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas, had influenza like symptoms. Within a week those 100 cases had turned into more than 500. The first mention of an influenza virus appears in a public health report in April 1918. Soon after 18 severe cases and three deaths from the influenza virus occurred coming from a base in Haskell, Kansas. After completing training soldiers were on ships going across the Atlantic to join the war in Europe, this seemed to only increase the spread of the influenza and help bring it to Europe. The flu was sporadic over the summer until a second, even more deadly, wave hit in September of 1918. Once again, this wave started at a military base. This time the wave started at a base in Boston. In October 1918 195,000 Americans died from influenza. There was a shortage of nurses because so many were shipped to Europe to be military nurses. Another reason for the nursing shortage was the refusal to use black nurses. At this point many cities started closing night schools and theaters to limit gatherings in hopes of slowing the spread of influenza. A third wave emerged in 1919, killing many more, but subsided in the summer of 1919. A catalyst of the third wave was soldiers returning home from the war in Europe in large numbers. Although the influenza epidemic lasted only a few short years, it has left a lasting impact on the United States.

primary sources

Source one : https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/restaurants-reopening-coronavirus-philadelphia-pennsylvania-industry-workers-20200805.html

The source is from the Philadelphia Inquirer. It discusses reopening restaurants and all the risks that come with it. Restaurant employees are faces with two options- come back to work putting not only themselves but their families at risk, or lose their job. It also puts into perspective restaurateurs choosing money and their business over the health, safety, and well being of not only their staff but the general public as well. Many restaurateurs are looking at two possibilities, remaining closed and maybe staying closed for good, or pretend everything will be okay with reopening. It’s focusing a lot on the possible effects of covid on the restaurant industry which I am really interested in. But it is an oped, and focuses primarily on restaurants in Philadelphia.

Source two : https://www.governor.pa.gov/covid-19/restaurant-industry-guidance/

This source focuses on the guidelines for restaurants reopening during Covid in the state of Pennsylvania. It outlines many of the rules restaurants have to follow to reopen in the safest manner possible. It highlights that these guidelines are meant to help keep both the employees and the public safe. It’s pretty dense government information, but gives a lot of insight on how restaurants are operating differently during the covid pandemic. Once again, it’s true limitation is that it’s only PA restaurants. Covering restaurants during covid is going to be difficult. There is no one set way that restaurants are operating across the country, I feel like I may have to narrow down to a specific geographic location.

research paper

The restaurant industry is something I love. I’ve been working in restaurants since right before I turned 18. I’ve met some of the best people while working in restaurants, guests and coworkers alike. It’s something that’s been uniquely affected by covid. The once bright and bubbly personalities of my managers and coworkers are now quiet and somber. Everyone is scared. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is frustrated. We’ve faced a unique set of challenges. Philadelphia was the last county in PA to allow indoor dining. As soon as other counties in the state went to green it became a constant battle with guests. Exclusively seating outdoors has been interesting. The already limited street parking in old city is nonexistent because of “streateries”. It has been a struggle to get guests to comply with mask mandates. I personally went back to working thinking guests were going to be kinder and more understanding to restaurant staff. I was not correct. I understand the struggle. I’m living through it. I want to explore more of how the restaurant industry is being affected as a whole. Right now, I can only speak for my experience at one restaurant in one city. I’d like to explore how cities all over the US and the globe are handling this crisis. The restaurant industry may never be the same. It may be positively impacted. Servers may actually earn a living wage. But there are also so many ways it could get worse. It uniquely affects a small subset of americans, but that subset includes people who only works in restaurants and those who serve on the side like teachers often do. The hospitality industry as a whole has been hit especially hard by covid and learning more about the work to rebound and if the industry will ever rebound would be really, really interesting.

time

I took a bit of a different approach on this assignment. These pictures show me how much time as passed for a period that doesn’t feel as long to me. The first photo is from 5.13.2020. It was the day I got Paulie. He looks so small and so sad. The second picture is in the first week of July. I had Paulie for around two months at this point. And the last picture is a few nights ago. I was trying to watch the flyers and that is how Paulie decided we were going to hang out. It’s so strange because I can’t remember what it was like before I got Paulie. Then some days it feels like I got him yesterday. These pictures show me how quickly times goes by even though it feels like it has been forever. It’s easier to see changes in him than in myself. It gives me a real idea of time.