Restaurant owners brace for yet another financial blow thanks to Omicron – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
At every turn of the pandemic, the service sector has suffered a severe blow. Now, with omicron accounting for over 73% of all new COVID-19 cases, we are heading into Christmas and New Years with new concerns about survival.
Michelle Schexnayder is the Executive Director of Tipsy Oak in Arlington. She said it takes courage, especially now, to keep a restaurant afloat.
âThere is definitely massive upper lip sweating on a daily basis,â she said. âYou do whatever needs to be done. “
The Tipsy Oak has been fortunate enough to survive for the past year and a half, leading to a massive increase in COVID-19 cases and stay-at-home orders. Now, there’s a new, highly transmissible variant, wary consumers, and a labor shortage to contend with.
âIt’s a chore. When there aren’t enough people, you have to work those doubles, work those 3-hour shifts and go to sleep, get up, start over, âsaid Schexnayder.
Kelsey Erickson Streufert is director of public affairs for the Texas Restaurant Association. She said the pandemic had practically devastated the service sector.
âThe holiday season is always a very critical time for restaurants to generate income,â she said. âWe come together, we celebrate and we spend a lot of time in restaurants or we buy food in restaurants, which is exactly what we need after almost two years of the pandemic.â
But there is uncertainty as to whether it will be the holiday season that will make a difference.
According to a survey conducted by the association, 91% of restaurant owners in Texas said their restaurant had experienced a drop in on-site dining due to the delta variant. Some 89% of public operators say the profit margin is lower than it was before COVID-19.
âIf we see that kind of impact with the omicron variant again, especially this holiday season, it will be a real challenge for many of our smaller, more independent restaurants that have really struggled over the past year. and a half, âStreufert said. .
The labor shortage also continues to be one of the main challenges for the industry. Some 78% of state operators said they still did not have the manpower needed to meet current demand.
For Streufert, surviving the holidays with the omicron variant means in part digging and adapting.
âMore and more restaurants are finding they have to offer multiple platforms to connect with their customers,â she said.
She said industry leaders are also calling on Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund – part of the American Rescue Plan Act to help restaurants keep their doors open with grants. They claim that only a small fraction of the restaurants that applied have received financial relief. Streufert said about 12,000 Texan restaurants that applied did not get funding.
Perhaps, however, it’s not just courage that gets them through, but a healthy dose of optimism. A conviction that the restaurant industry has more than a meal to offer.
âYou kind of feel like you’re creating something,â Schexnayder said. “A place where people can be happy for a little while before they have to go to the rest of the world and take care of all this.”