COVID decimates restaurant industry

Kelly Lynch, Features Editor

Since the year has started Restaurants have been shutting down all across Illinois for health and safety reasons due to Covid-19. Many businesses have been affected negatively. Lots of profit has been lost and many people lost their jobs.

Covid-19 has affected many businesses, especially restaurants. On Mar. 15, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker closed all dine-in seating, and restaurants could only offer pick-up and delivery.

“We are working with restaurant owners and food delivery services across the state to see if restaurants can safely keep their kitchens open, so the restaurants can continue food delivery to people at their homes,” Pritzker said to the Chicago Sun Times.

On June 26, dine-in restaurants opened their inside seating. However, parties could be no larger than ten people. Since customers were urged to stay six feet apart for health and safety reasons, either every other table was open for eating or the tables were spread apart farther than usual.

“We close down half of our tables to keep the six feet between each party of people,” junior Tyler Parker said. “Most of the tables at Culver’s are booths so they’re already kind of secluded.”

Because of the cold weather, some businesses have set up tents and heating units to entice customers to dine in comfort.  A few dine-in restaurants have still opened their outdoor seating still because it will give them a boost in their business and revenue for the small number of customers eating outside.

“We opened our outside seating first, before letting people inside,” Red Robin employee Kate Higgins said. “We could spread people out more and it was more open and safer for everyone.”

On Oct. 26 Pritzker mandated that most counties in Illinois such as Will, Cook, DuPage and Kankakee were forced to again close their dine-in seating because of a new order preventing customers from being served indoors for dining for health and safety purposes relating to Covid.

“We are seeing a national surge of cases affecting every state around us in a dramatic way, and in Illinois we are seeing the numbers go up all across the state,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said to The Daily Herald.

Business has been down for restaurants because there are less people going into restaurants to sit down and eat. According to WSILTV, IRA President Sam Toia says 55% of Illinois operators find it unlikely their restaurants will remain open if the heightened conditions are still in place six months from now. Sit-down restaurants have suffered with keeping their business alive because they couldn’t let people inside to eat.

“The most conservative estimates say that at a minimum of 20% of our restaurants will close down here in the state of Illinois,” Toia said. “That means we will lose over 120,000 jobs.”


Dine-in restaurants have suffered the most from this because most of their revenue is generated from indoor dining. . According to “Some suburban restaurants defy indoor shutdown order”by Josh Noel at The Chicago Tribune, Penny Gounaris, who opened the Lucky Penny Diner four years ago, said she wavered for days about defying the order. Even  with business down about 75%, she concluded that the restaurant could stay open safely while trying to stay afloat.

But my little diner isn’t hurting anyone, and at the end of the day, how do my employees pay their bills,”  Gounaris said. “Forget me; I haven’t taken a dime from this restaurant. They have to eat and pay rent and put gas in their vehicles.”

 Fast food and drive-thru restaurants weren’t as hurt from this because people could still come and get food safely in their cars or have it delivered to them easily. According to MiQ, ordering food and having it delivered has increased 18% since restaurants have closed down their inside dining option.

“Since Little Caesars is a fast food restaurant, people can just come in, pick up and leave with little to no contact with anyone,” junior Morgan Barnes said. “Business can be slow sometimes but usually by the weekend we’re really busy.”

According to BizJournals, it’s estimated that one-third to one-half of the 24,000 restaurants in the city could close permanently over the next six months. On Restaurant Business Online, it states that over the past couple months, the pandemic had cost about 5.9 million people their restaurant jobs.

“People in this industry work very hard,” said Kevin Armantrout from Restaurant Business Online, who lost his job as CEO of the two-unit Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, along with all his employees, when the owner shuttered it in March. There will be hard times—let’s face it—for a lot of people.”

According to “Some suburban restaurants defy indoor shutdown order”by Josh Noel at The Chicago Tribune,  since the original closing of indoor seating in March, restaurants have lost about $300 billion in revenue because of the huge lack of customers. In Illinois, restaurant business has gone from around 75% to about 25% because of the loss of people who would usually dine inside.

“What about us little diners or breakfast joints?” Gounaris said. “Fifty percent of my sales isn’t alcohol — it’s eggs.”

Despite Pritzker’s order to shut down indoor services in bars and restaurants in Illinois, Fozzy’s Bar and Grill near Rockford was among the restaurants that stayed open. Stated in “Some restaurants in Illinois are defying closure orders as ban on indoor service spreads to Chicago suburbs” by Robert McCoppin at the Chicago Tribune, Owner Nick Fosberg said he decided to leave the doors open to keep his employees working, pay his bills and stay in business. He says the workers wear masks and customers wear masks on their way in and out, while tables are spaced 6 feet apart at 25% capacity.

“We’re sticking to what we were doing and being safe about it,” Foseberg said. “We’re getting a ton of support. People are happy someone finally stood up and said, ‘I’m not closing.”

 It’s still unsafe to go out without the right precautions to ensure people stay healthy. Some refuse to apply these rules which force the business to refuse service to them.

“Sometime’s a customer will come in without a mask or stand too close to others,” Barnes said. “When that happens, we politely ask them to follow the safety guidelines and if they still don’t, we ask them to leave.”