MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Restaurants have been hit hard since the pandemic began, and the omicron variant has packed another punch.
Mindy Hannon, president of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, says restaurateurs continue to feel the pressure.
“We still have restaurants that are permanently closing every week. We have a lot of restaurants that I’ve seen in Birmingham that have been open for 25 or 40 years and have just decided, you know, we’ve had enough and we can’t go on anymore,” Hannon said.
A COVID-19 restaurant impact survey conducted in January highlighted the negative impact of the omicron variant on business conditions in our state. The survey showed that 92% of restaurants have seen a drop in customer demand for indoor dining in recent weeks due to rising coronavirus cases. It also showed the actions restaurants were forced to take.
- 46% reduced opening hours on opening days.
- 27% closed on days it would normally be open.
- 29% fewer seats.
- 10% changed to only offer off-premises for a while.
In the survey, 57% of operators said their restaurant’s business conditions were worse now than they were three months ago. Only 4% said business conditions have improved over the past three months.
“They are still recovering from 2020. Many restaurants have incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. They lost millions of dollars in sales. So even though right now their restaurants are looking good, they’re still struggling because these loans that they got through the SBA, I’m glad they’re available, but they’ll be paid back for the next 30 years,” Hannon said. .
Hannon says that between a shortage of employees, inflation and supply chain issues, the road to recovery is going to be a long one.
“Our restaurants still need a lot more help from the government, the Restaurant Recovery Fund is still pending in Congress. And we also have ARPA funds here at the state level. And our restaurants and hotels have both been economically impacted by the pandemic, and they need the rescue funds to help save our industry,” Hannon said.
As many of our state’s restaurants are closing, a Prattville woman is taking up the challenge and opening a new restaurant called Soul Revival Cookhouse, located at 1524 South Memorial Dr. Over the past few months, Nieves Anderson has been training staff and preparing until welcoming customers.
“It’s super exciting. I am so overwhelmed, so blessed. We’re going to be the only soul food restaurant here in the town of Prattville, so that’s a plus,” Anderson said.
Anderson found her passion for cooking and baking early in the pandemic.
“When it started, we were sent home to work from home. And out of boredom, I started cooking and cooking. And before I knew it, I had catering gigs after catering gigs. I started doing private dinners,” Anderson said.
Anderson says this journey has not been without its challenges.
“We were supposed to open earlier, and because of the new variant that came out, it pushed us back. And with supply chains, we’ve run out of some items that we haven’t been able to put on the menu yet because of that, but we’ve just learned to work around that and find different things to do,” Anderson said. .
Anderson says she will be the first African-American woman to own a restaurant in Prattville. Soul Revival Cookhouse will open on February 28. A ribbon cutting will take place at 9:30 a.m.
“I’m so lucky to be able to inspire women and young entrepreneurs around the world who may be afraid to do it. And I just encourage them to step out in faith. If I can do it, you can do it,” said Anderson.
The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association says it’s the opportunity industry with plenty of hiring right now. Alabama Community College Systems just this month announced its Innovation Center, which offers fast-paced training for those looking for jobs in the hospitality industry.
Copyright 2022 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.