Union Square Hospitality Group founder and CEO Danny Meyer said he doesn’t see reopening the dining rooms of his 19 restaurants located across New York City until after there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.
“There is no interest or excitement on my part to having a half-full dining room while everyone is getting their temperature taken and wearing masks, for not much money,” Meyer told Bloomberg in a report on Thursday (May 14).
“We won’t be welcoming guests into our full-service restaurants for a very long time — probably not until there’s a vaccine,” he added. “It’s very frustrating, but it’s the only safe way to go.”
Meyer’s sentiment was echoed by other restaurateurs, like Swiss chef Daniel Humm, owner of Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park, who said he might not reopen ever. Chef and restaurant group owner David Chang said he was permanently shuttering Nishi in Chelsea and Momofuku in Washington, D.C.
“This crisis has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities of our industry and made clear that returning to normal is not an option,” Chang said in a statement on Momofuku’s website. “We don’t have all the answers that will get us through this crisis. We are writing the rules in real time, and there will be much to learn along the way. The world has changed forever, and Momofuku needs to change with it.”
Meyer totally closed all of his restaurants on March 13 and said he will first open his storefront café, Daily Provisions, for curbside pickup only. His flatiron pizzeria Marta will open for pickup next.
He is also considering different ways to serve people outside of the restaurant environment and is encouraging his chefs and general managers to think creatively and take risks.
“Each one is cooking up their own entrepreneurial scheme,” he said, noting that Gramercy Tavern chef Mike Anthony is planning to create farmer’s market meal kits.
Outdoor seating is another option being considered as New York City explores ways to expand outside dining space.
Dining in at restaurants dropped more than 85 percent since the pandemic began, according to a PYMNTS COVID-19 Brief series. Just 16 percent of people surveyed reported they were ordering in more to replace eating out.