From the Editor: Keeping Your Head in Troubled Times
My email has been inundated with messages from restaurants and theaters and experts letting their patrons know how they are handling the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s mid-March as I write this and we, as a country, still don’t have a handle on how to handle this seemingly unreal situation.
As one business consultant from the McCombie Group said in an email blast: “While its full medical magnitude remains unknown, the resulting psychological fear can be just as contagious and economically damaging as the virus itself.” He went on to say there’s reason to believe all this could lead to a recession.
The impact to both the economy and our normal lives is staggering. And the media’s round-the-clock coverage ensures the flames continue to be fanned.
I’ve already had to cancel a trip to Denver to see my grandson in his first play and also a much-needed getaway to San Diego, when the play I was going to see was delayed and the governor was advocating the use of hotels for hospitals. No news yet on whether I can get my money back from the flights (I couldn’t cancel my flights online and the wait time on the phone was six hours.)
I’m fascinated that proper hand washing is the best defense most experts are offering, in addition to staying home with your 30 rolls of toilet paper from your emergency Costco run. It reminds me of a passage I recently read in the bestselling book, Educated. The author who was raised by survivalists was surprised to see her grandmother’s home had an assortment of sweet-smelling soaps in the bathroom. She had never been schooled on the necessity of hand washing, and when her grandmother complained to her father about the girl’s lack of hygiene, he just laughed and said, “I raised my kids not to pee on their hands.”
Now to survive, washing one’s hands after a trip to the bathroom is no longer a personal decision. It’s a moral choice to do no harm.
AND THEN THINGS HIT THE FAN OVER THE WEEKEND: And my lighthearted approached seemed excruciatingly shallow.
The long list of institutions and businesses closing, from schools to entertainment venues to nursing homes banning loved ones from visiting residents, began to emerge.
Restaurants started closing in other states, along with any public gathering over first 150 then 50 then 10. The governor of Illinois, irritated at people gathering for pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in light of all the warnings not to, mandated restaurants and bars close dining areas until the end of March, according to NPR.
In order to stay open, restaurants in the Twin Cities were increasing their cleaning methods: At Monte Carlo, the server delivered silverware, napkins, salt and pepper shakers and side plates normally already on the table—anything communal is now removed to be cleaned and replaced after each table turn.
Other restaurants were practicing “social distancing” by seating diners at every other table, or taking out tables to make more space between them.
The restaurant scene in the Twin Cities shifted from what do we do if we have to close, to how do we survive when we have to close our doors.
Restaurateurs who never thought about delivery are starting to shift their thinking to delivery and pick-up. Rather than pay third-party delivery fees, some upscale restaurants are going to curbside delivery where meals are, yes, delivered at the curb rather than having the patron come inside to pick up the order.
Another survival method is to encourage patrons to buy gift cards that can be used later. And even better, promise that a percentage of the cards will be used to help employees who had to be furloughed. An active social media presence is survival, not vanity.
AND THEN THINGS HIT THE FAN WHEN MINNESOTA’S GOVERNOR MANDATED RESTAURANTS AND BARS CLOSE FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT 10 DAYS.
We are all in uncharted territory. Some of us remember when cocooning—staying inside one’s home to avoid danger—was a trend in the 1980s. But this feels different. There were long lines at the gas station, now there are long lines at the grocery stores.
There will be heroes and villains, as there always are in times of huge social change. Let’s choose to be heroes.
Updates are coming at a rapid clip, so stay informed, stay calm and stay well. Our May issue seems far away, so we’ll be posting updates on our website, www.foodservice news.net.