How Restaurateurs Feel After One Year of the Pandemic

Give yourself credit. 

You made it through the past year.

You will never forget it, and definitely never want to repeat anything like it.

A year and a week ago yesterday, my daughter and I were at a Dallas Mavericks game, and the person who had sat in front of me for years – a surgeon – did not accept my usual handshake.

My first tangible clue.  

Three nights later I watched basketball on TV, my last game for the foreseeable future.

The season? Canceled.

Five days later, things turned really weird: Our dining rooms closed.

We Lived the Unthinkable

At that time there was no government bailout.

Just trying to keep others safe, conserving cash, and shedding expenses while developing a robust to-go program out of nothing.

We all have ugly memories like these.

We all have stories like these.

Now we see encouraging signs: increasing vaccination rates, declining cases, opening dining rooms.

But, with COVID variants spreading, massive re-opening close to spring break, and St. Patrick’s Day gatherings, we don’t know what will happen next.

Survive, Stabilize, Dominate

We went from the out-of-body experiences of walking around empty dining rooms, to building those to-go programs, to partial openings, to government bail-outs; and from sick employees, guests, friends, and family members to a second wave, third wave, masks on, to today seeing how this could all end and maybe even receiving a vaccine – like a new set of lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Every restaurant owner I know had a moment where they feared they might lose it all.

Then, somewhere along the way, a survival realization occurred.

People came back from that chilling awareness to do some of the most creative and resourceful work of their lives.

People I work with still do that.

As time went on confidence built – top operators could handle whatever unbelievable and unknowable circumstances would be thrown at them.

Remember for the Rest of Your Life

Your pandemic experience allows you to overcome adversity and stay resilient – especially when dealing with things that seem important but, upon further inspection, turn out to be more trivial than a pandemic.

When combining their dining and to-go revenue, many operators I work with are experiencing volumes close to (or even higher than) they had going into the pandemic.

Ready for whatever comes next.

Knowing they are going to be OK.

Over to you. How can you use your experiences during the pandemic to bolster your strength and success in the future?