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COVID-19

Indoor dining returns to New York, but is it too late for some places?

Erika Beras Sep 10, 2020
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A restaurant offers outdoor dining as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on Aug. 22, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
COVID-19

Indoor dining returns to New York, but is it too late for some places?

Erika Beras Sep 10, 2020
Heard on:
A restaurant offers outdoor dining as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on Aug. 22, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

New Yorkers will not need to weather the cold to eat at a restaurant. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that restaurants can reopen for indoor dining at the end of the month.

But the classic New York dining experience – elbow to elbow – will not be returning. Restaurants can only operate at 25% capacity.

Even in normal times, running a profitable restaurant in New York City is tough. Margins are thin and there are lots of costs, such as labor, food and high rents.

Now, add personal protective equipment and reduce your seating to 25%. 

“For many places that’s not going to be enough to make the return to business profitable,” said Christopher Muller, former hospitality professor at Boston University.

But, it’s a step in the right direction, said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association.

“If you have a robust takeout and delivery currently, if outdoor dining has been working well for you, this will be an additional piece to help you build back,” she said.

Before the pandemic, New York City restaurants generated about $25 billion a year in revenue. Alex Susskind, a professor at Cornell University said other industries feed off the restaurant business, adding that “it’s important for tourism. It’s important for the lodging business, it’s important for everything.”

And he said, if restaurants can make a comeback, then the city can begin to recover.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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