The meeting on Monday morning was gloomy, both literally and figuratively.
The owners of 40 + San Francisco Bay area restaurants gathered at the initiative of Mourad Lahlou (Mourad and Aziza), to discuss the Coronavirus crisis. The infection has been on the horizon for weeks, but Monday was D-Day.
When the meeting started, the threat of a city-wide closure hung over their heads. At the end of the meeting, everything was clear. San Francisco Mayor London Breed had announced the “Shelter-in-Place” process. For these business owners, large and small, this was the occasion for an unusual outpouring of solidarity that we witness and which we would like to share with you.
Nobody was there to protest against the closure which was intended to protect citizens and blunt the crisis.
The owners were demonstrating solidarity. They were posing questions and discussing strategies that would save their businesses and protect their employees.
One key question was how to negotiate with insurance companies and how to manage their “supply chain” which included chefs, managers, and low-skilled personnel. It also included suppliers and wholesalers. When part of that chain disappears the entire industry is threatened.
Some have proposed to cook their food reserves and make it available to their staff sheltered at home. Others were focused on pressuring California state so that all full-time employees like contractors, receive at least 75% of their salary.
They were all discussing on-going negotiations with their landlords to extend the rent due dates…
Again and again, the owners said: “We are afraid for our staff, not for our business”.
Another major concern was for all the small neighborhood restaurants: those in the Sunset, Oakland or the Peninsula and to ensure that they were represented in the efforts to obtain guarantees or assistance from the state government or insurance companies just like the big names.
It’s a great example of solidarity from an entire industry that we have witnessed. Among the participants, we noted the presence of the bosses of CheFico, Mr. Jiu’s, Tartine, Chris Cosentino, Lazy Bear, Atelier Crenn, Mourad of course and many more.
For the time being some of the restaurant owners in the San Francisco Bay Area will be trying to get through the worst of the crisis by having a take-out and / or delivery offer.
If this message resonates among you, that you like your neighborhood restaurant(s) or that you want to give a chance to a whole section of the local economy which represents tens of thousands of employees, consider ordering or having food delivered to you for the days and weeks to come.
You can also offer gift vouchers to your friends and loved ones … This cash injection would help stabilize the industry.
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