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Restaurants struggle with mandated take-out, delivery services only

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Local restaurants began on Tuesday offering only take-out and delivery services following a directive from Gov. Roy Cooper — and some are already taking a huge hit.

Yummi Banh Mi owners Julie and Scott Tang said canceled events have led to their food truck losing $40,000 in revenue. And though only about five employees regularly staffed the streetside cafe, the restaurant is down to two people now.

Julie said the restaurant, located at 121 North Long St., has had to cut back on staff and hours. As of Friday, the restaurant will be closing at 7 p.m., and Julie said she and Scott are determining if they should open and operate on Saturdays for now.

Additionally, she added that her restaurant joins Asian restaurants across the nation who suffer from stereotyping due to the virus’ origin in Wuhan, China.

“We as Asian-Americans end up taking the short end of the stick because we’re a cultural restaurant,” she said.

But, “half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf,” Julie said, adding that she and Scott have employees who rely on them to get by during this time. Though it’d be easy for only the owners to operate the restaurant, they have to take care of their employees.

“How long can we keep taking this hit before we have to close the doors,” Julie questioned.

Some restaurants have done just that.

In a Facebook post, Smoke Pit announced it would be temporarily closing its doors at the Salisbury location.

“We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds and will open again as soon as we are able,” the post stated. “Thank you to all people and businesses throughout the community who have supported, and continue to support us.”

Some local restaurants offer delivery through Doordash and Grubhub in addition to to-go options.

Doordash, a food delivery service, stated in an email that deliveries are moving to no-contact, which will make the “leave it at my door” the default drop-off option. Customers can also select the “hand it to me” option if they prefer. The company also stated it would be providing financial assistance to drivers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are quarantined. Additionally, the delivery service has added 100,000 independent restaurants to DashPass, which is its subscription service that offers $0 in delivery fees, for free to help the restaurants generate higher sales and offer DashPass members more selections.

The company also announced a commission relief package and marketing support of up to $200 million for new and existing partnering restaurants. This means it would not collect commission from partnering restaurants up to the $200 million amount.

Grubhub also announced that — in conjunction with the mayors of Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Portland — it would suspend fees from independent restaurants and delivery partners in an economic relief effort of up to $100 million.

Mikey Wetzel, the owner of Go Burrito, located at 115 West Fisher St., said his employees are still upbeat and have a smile on their faces during this time despite having to run “a skeleton crew.”

Go Burrito has a staff of 40 employees, he said, including bar staffers who are unable to make money during this time since Cooper’s directive order ceases sit-downs for bars. But Wetzel’s had to cut hours to his employees.

“The only reason we’re staying open is to keep employees working,” he said, adding that he’s not making a profit at this time from staying open.

Wetzel said he doesn’t agree with Cooper’s directive to require restaurants to offer take-out and delivery services only and feels that it’s an overreaction.

On Friday, Cooper doubled-down on his directive by restricting patio service at restaurants during this time as well.

Though “downtown feels like a ghost town,” and despite not making money right now, Wetzel still believes people, primarily young people who are less at-risk for coronavirus complications, want to eat at Go Burrito.

“These people have literally nothing to do,” he said. “One thing that is not changing is that people need to eat.”

And while he feels Go Burrito will be OK “surviving this,” it’s “not going to be pretty.”

But his heart goes out to the businesses that won’t be OK and the ones who will face enormous debt after the outbreak subsides.

And as for Yummi Bahn Mi, Julie said, in solidarity with other Asian-American restaurants, “We’re going to keep working until they tell us we can’t anymore.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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