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A week in the life of a restaurant owner, ahead of a COVID winter

Marielle Segarra Dec 14, 2020
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A Pasta Louise holiday gift basket. "I feel like my mind is just always kind of thinking about ways to keep people out and supporting us for the winter," says owner Allison Arevalo. Allison Arevalo
Back to Business

A week in the life of a restaurant owner, ahead of a COVID winter

Marielle Segarra Dec 14, 2020
Heard on:
A Pasta Louise holiday gift basket. "I feel like my mind is just always kind of thinking about ways to keep people out and supporting us for the winter," says owner Allison Arevalo. Allison Arevalo
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As of Monday, Dec. 14, indoor dining is banned again in New York City restaurants because of rising COVID-19 numbers.

That leaves restaurants in New York, as in other places, with only outdoor dining, which will be tricky as the weather gets colder.

Allison Arevalo owns a restaurant in Brooklyn called Pasta Louise. She kept a weeklong diary for us, as she, like many restaurant owners, faces yet another seismic change in the industry.

Pasta Louise’s cauliflower kale pesto with burrata. (Credit: Allison Arevalo)

Pasta Louise is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’s named after Arevalo’s grandmother, who taught her how to cook, and it serves mainly fresh pasta, topped with things like meatballs and spicy red pesto. The seating is all outdoors, under heated awnings.

Kids make Christmas ornaments from dried pasta. (Credit: Allison Arevalo)

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Pasta Louise hosts an event for kids. They make Christmas ornaments from dried pasta and red glitter. It’s 40 degrees outside, but Arevalo is hopeful that a bunch of kids will show up — and that their parents buy a lot of hot chocolate and egg sandwiches.
The event goes well.

“In this neighborhood, there are so many kids, and as long as we can get the kids out, we can get the parents out,” she said.

On Monday, the restaurant is closed. Tuesday, business is slow.

Wednesday morning, Arevalo wakes up thinking about gift baskets. The restaurant is selling them for the holiday.

“I feel like my mind is just always kind of thinking about ways to keep people out and supporting us for the winter,” she said.

Allison Arevalo, center, kneeling, with her staff. (Courtesy of Allison Arevalo)

Later on Wednesday, business is so slow that she sends one of her servers home. She worries that she might have to lay off some of her 28 employees.

The rest of the day isn’t much better. But as she’s about to bike home, she sees some of the restaurant’s regulars sitting outside, and it lifts her mood. 

“One of them stopped me and told me to be careful because I wasn’t wearing my helmet,” she said. “And another guy was asking me what are we doing for Christmas platters, because he really likes meat and he wants a platter with more meat in it.”

Things start looking up by Thursday night — the restaurant actually has a waitlist. Same thing on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant also gets a ton of takeout orders.

On Saturday, Arevalo said that as long as New York doesn’t also ban outdoor dining, she thinks Pasta Louise can make it through December.

“The real challenge is going to be January and February,” she said, walking in the door to see her family after a long week.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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