On March 16, 2020, the country was put on pause when the first shelter-in-place order was issued, stopping any forms of contact within communities. While many survived this drastic change by switching to a virtual setting, small businesses, such as restaurants, were left behind in the dust.
Though restaurants began to rely heavily on third-party delivery services, the virtual switch could not cover the drastic profit drop, little to no customers, and the employee drop. Co-owner Lily Peng of Taro San, a Japanese restaurant located in Palo Alto, California, expressed safety concerns for when food was handled by an unknown third-party driver.
The numbers of employees reduced as a result of failure to maintain profit and monthly costs. Taro San’s team inevitably faced a cut from 40 employees to 15, at their lowest point. Palo Alto’s Pizza My Heart manager Francisco Ayala stated he was “luckily able to keep all their employees, but had to reduce the work hours by nearly half.”
However, as shelter-in-place orders were lifted and regulations became more lax, many restaurants have reopened their doors to outdoor dining.
Taro San re-invented their space to accommodate their outdoor area with safe seating and also supplying an abundance of sanitation tools, such as hand sanitizer and wipes. They also utilized having electronic menus through a QR code to prevent any extra contact.
Many restaurants are faced with maintaining the delicate balance between keeping a business afloat and their customers’ safety.
Taro San confirms that though the journey ahead may be financially rough, they would never sacrifice their customers’ health for any business purposes.
Through these unprecedented times, Ayala, like many other restaurant workers, reminisce about seeing smiles on their customers faces.