WILLOW GLEN (KPIX 5) — The struggling restaurant industry made a plea to consumers to order take-out or delivery Tuesday by dubbing it The Great American Takeout.
A push on social media, with a post in red, white and blue, was shared across the country, especially in states where a stay-at-home order is in place and restaurants are only allowed to provide take out orders.
Jennefer Koopman, owner of Yuki Sushi in Willow Glen, said the effort resulted in a dinner rush for her restaurant that she didn’t expect. Yuki Sushi’s customers proved they would answer the call for help.
“We did not plan for the number of calls we’re receiving right now,” Koopman said. “For them to step up like his and come together has been tremendous for us so we are hustling right now to catch up with all the orders.”
Many restaurants are closing, and some are on the verge of shuttering as the pandemic keeps customers from dining inside restaurants.
Michael Williams, whose Los Gatos restaurant Southern Kitchen, was just booming several days ago before the shelter-in-place order, is struggling to keep its doors open now. He said two weeks ago the only problem was the hour wait to get a seat, and now he doesn’t know if his business will make it more than two weeks.
“We’ve already drained our savings,” Williams said. “I mean the whole world changed overnight.”
His restaurant, which has been in the family for more than 30 years, is in the heart of Los Gatos. He said he has kept all of his staff, but reduced their hours. Restaurants around him are struggling to stay open, and some have already shut down.
He said he’s now offering free delivery, but the draw to his restaurant was the dine in experience, he said.
“It’s crucial, this is our lifeline, this is what we do and without customers we won’t stay afloat,” Williams said.
But it’s not just his employees he must pay, restaurant owners must also pay their vendors and overhead. He said everything in the restuarant industry is a challenge right now.
“The cost has tripled on some things, case of eggs was $25 now it’s $50, milk is hard to get, can’t get toilet paper, can’t get cleaning supplies, can’t get take out stuff,” said Williams.
He said he was working on opening another restaurant and fufilling a dream; he was set to receive his permits last week when the city shut down. Now he doesn’t know if he’ll even have the means to open it.
Koopman said revenue is down 60% at her restaurant, and that she’s had to let go of one third of her staff who she hopes to rehire once the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Both Koopman and Williams said every day there is a new plan to operate their restaurants, because every day is uncertain.
“We’re taking it, honestly, one day at a time,” Koopman said. “That’s all we can do, I don’t schedule for tomorrow until tonight after we close.”
On National Takeout Day, food delivery workers were extra busy helping Bay Area residents and businesses during the shelter-in-place order.
Solano Ave, one of the premier restaurant areas in the East Bay and an area where National Takeout Day, was especially important during coronavirus pandemic.
The avenue stretches for more than a mile and is home to dozens of medium to high end restaurants. There’s elaborate Chinese, tasty Thai, regular pizza and fancy pizza–all of which are struggling and trying to stay in business.
All of them are doing take out.
Robin Pennell braved the pouring rain Tuesday to get his pizza. “Stay local with your money. We need to stay local and keep everybody going as much as we can because, we’ll all be living here when this is over,” he said.
National Takeout Day springs from more than 100 national and regional restaurants asking people to order at least one take out meal to support establishments crippled by the pandemic restrictions.
Raoul Fulcher Junior says he and his daughter are doing their part. “Went to our favorite restaurant and said, ‘Let’s get something to eat. Make it simple,” he said.
Gianni Manzone and his wife own Cugini’s, an upscale, popular Italian restaurant operating more than 20 years. He says customers are caring.
“They are going to all their local spots trying to help out, trying to order take out, gift cards for future use, things like that,” Manzone said.
Most of Cugini’s business is in the evenings. Tuesday afternoon, with rain pouring down during the middle of the day, business was slow. Cugini’s, like all the restaurants in the Bay Area, hopes everyone gets take out for dinner on National Takeout Day.
KPIX 5’s Maria Medina and Don Ford contributed to this report.