The Indicator from Planet Money - Winter Is Coming For The Restaurant Industry

Idaho is the leading nation in restaurant revenue growth. But that doesn't mean its restaurants are having an easy time. There are mask mandates and robust restrictions on gathering in many cities in the state, and with winter coming, restaurateurs are working hard to innovate, compensate and stay in business.

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Is the indicator from Planet Money, I'm Stacey Vanek Smith. The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest-hit industries by the covid-19 denik and according to the National Restaurant Association. One-in-six restaurants has closed since March that's more than a hundred thousand businesses winter coming which will make outdoor seating a lot harder. The next few months could be brutal for restaurants things do vary by state according to the UBS evidence lab restaurants in Washington DC have seen their revenues Fall by the most this year relative to last year. That's for people eating inside and revenues have climbed the most at restaurants in Idaho cannot be surprised that I immediately grabbed onto this piece of news had a feeling that was coming. Oh, yeah.

Listen to the indicator before I am from Idaho. I talked about it. Probably way too much. I love it. I love my home state for the headlines. I always take notice and so I wasn't very pleasantly surprised by this. I wanted to see what was going on. And if I do restaurants we were doing really well. So I was thinking of restaurants that I knew about and I thought of this Basque Restaurant in Boise, it's a set of institution. It's been around for like 30 years. It's called bar Guernica fun facts Cardiff Idaho has one of the largest bass populations outside of Spain did not know that there's all this crap fast food in Idaho as a result. There is a basque block with a bass Museum of are going to get is on the basketball and when I was growing up organic was always like happen like it was always Lively and Pat are people waiting for tables. And so I thought we should give him a call. Yes. So today on the show in the next in series were we interview small business owners throughout the country. We are speaking with Jeff met the owner of bar gernika, and we asked him how he has been managing through the pandemic and how things are generally

Idaho restaurants

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Jeff may owner of bar gernika in Boise, Idaho. Thank you for talking with us so far can make it is a Basque Restaurant feel like a lot of people might not be familiar with Basque food. So what are you guys doing? We do mostly like pub food Pub bath food. So we do, you know what the traditional chorizo and then we do some sebaste Ritz like coquetas and Salome 0804 is a hybrid sandwich the delay on Grindr. So it's kinda some peppers and onions with gland that we trim and slice and cook with some cheese on top and serve with an Aussie sauce. So you guys have been in business for a long time and like before all of this craziness happens, like what was businesslike tourism and then we also being around since 91. We have a strong local presence was a pretty much on any given day. We had a pretty full restaurant we had

11 tables and eight bar tops in another five tables outside on a Friday night to get at least a hundred tickets, you know how it is not it's not huge. We're right around 500 square feet are so I mean, it's it's it's a big mom shotgun house. It's kind of like that with a little a little back area for some CD what happens when the pandemic started pretty much shut down for 2 months and then it sounds like you reopen to partly reopens at in like maybe you're so that when we open that first weekend in June when we were you open we just went straight to to go for a couple of weeks to take away with outdoor tables at 5 outside tables and what was businesslike compared to

Before when you were seeing a hundred tickets tonight to drop 75%

I mean we had and then it slowly started picking up with with some of the locals as they started feeling more comfortable warmest. It's always a very competitive business you guys have are really established. You have some advantages but like what were you looking at? If someone trying to manage a business and keep people employed and all that stuff walking distance blood out what the cost were, you know, that was our biggest thing is trying to see if we can still if it made if a number is makes sense to keep saying open and so far they have let you know, we're not really making money like we had before but but we're covering most of our costs. So the loss isn't as bad as it.

Do you have all your table still or do you have did you have to cut down on the number of tables inside 50 seats? That's so we have

get a free people on the shift is now just two people and so like what is this mean for your business? Like as is your kind of like looking at the numbers and trying to kind of make this work but also winter is coming. We're trying to see if that is working or trying to push to go a little bit more to get people to keep coming in and ordering from us. What's your most popular to go item?

crocus flower

And in what is business like now you said you would have got lost you went all the way down to like basically or 25% of what used to be doing. What about now? The cold weather is just really hit. So this last week has been we're back around that that never were down. But it's it's not bad about 25% right now. I mean, what is that? What is that like for you and keep going forward.

So there's this report that came out from UBS about restaurant revenue and it looks like Idaho was at the top of the list as far as how of how restaurants were doing, but it sounds like you know, it's it's been pretty rough. I think for us being in the downtown part of of Boise there if there is a lack of the workers who were downtown working, so there's not as that you get off work and then you go have a beer and some coquetas. So what kind of looking forward what are you with? What are you watching for? The next few months looking to see the numbers, you know, we watch the numbers daily. And right now they have been Saving Paws going up now. So that's not the coronavirus cases. Yeah. It's been a long time since it since I have I haven't I haven't been idle since the pandemic started. I hear from my parents feel like sometimes idahoans don't love like

Permit rules and stuff are like people are people wearing masks like all the people are I don't know know Idaho and they don't like rules, you know, most of the time when we haven't had any issues. We've been pretty lucky in that that since I've heard stories from other restaurants where they people haven't been as respectful but most of the time when they're coming the people that are coming in to Eureka Seven really respectful and put on the mask and what about like Boise itself like how how's the city feel right now?

Most people are pretty cautious right now cuz of the numbers have been going up as what I can tell her like everyone's kind of showed up for all the businesses are closed up. Do you feel like worried cautiously optimistic. Like, how did how do you feel like going into that the holidays cautiously optimistic

Fresca to hope it will hope that we'll get some of the people who come into town who haven't had croquetas in a long time or have been to gernika so we could pick up some of that business.

If you are coming down, thank you so much for talking with me. I really appreciate it. This episode of the indicator was produced by Darian woods and fact-checked by Sean saldania or editor is Patty Hearst and the indicator is a production of NPR.
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