Gov. JB Pritzker's decision to close bars and restaurants for the next two weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was just the latest in a series of developments that have upended the food service industry in Illinois in recent days.
Ken Myszka co-owns four restaurants in McLean County and will open a fifth later this year. Three of them announced new delivery service hours before the governor’s declaration, but Myszka said they will still need to cut back hours for 200-plus employees.
“I’m really concerned, mostly about our hourly employees, the part-time employees, the ones that in the foreseeable future I don’t have the means to give them as much assistance as I need to give them,” Myszka said. “I’ve been working diligently to control labor costs when sales are down. (The managers) are good at it. The byproduct of sales steeply, quickly declining is shifts get cut and there’s no sugarcoating that.”
Myszka said the company was already planning to roll out delivery service this year, but the restaurant closings forced them to move up that timeline.
Myskza said it will take a week to see how much staffing they will need to maintain delivery service, then they will devote some staff to building remodeling and upkeep.
He said it’s a tough business where many restaurants don’t survive even in a healthy economy. He said some of his restaurants have leaner profit margins, but he has pledged to give each business at least five years to see if it can succeed.
Restaurants that lack drive-thru capabilities and don't have drivers will shut down completely for at least the next two weeks.
Angie Ballantini is the manager at Lakeside Country Club in Bloomington. She has had to lay off 40 employees; all but five of them are part-time.
She said the club could consider drive-thru or delivery if the shutdown is prolonged.
“It is not something where we have that kind of capability,” Ballantini said. “If (the state) decides it needs to be closed longer, that might be something that the board will decide. We’ve talked about that.”
Ballantini said the country club has canceled six private events scheduled for the spring.
Food delivery drivers are hoping they'll be in higher demand now that the governor has banned in-store dining through the end of the month.
Scott Vanderbusch of Normal is a full-time delivery driver. He said business dropped sharply in the week leading up to the ban because of coronavirus fears.
“We don’t make hourly rate, that’s one thing a lot of people don’t realize,” Vanderbusch said. “We are basically a sales position, the most orders, the more money. So if you cut out the orders, that takes my pay away.
“There’s no emergency backup (where) I still get an hourly paycheck. If people aren’t ordering and use the service, I don’t make anything.”
Vanderbusch said the only economic benefit recently is gas prices have dropped below $2 per gallon.
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