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COVID-19 CRISIS

Over 300 restaurants facing closure appeal for return of dine-in


At least 300 branches of restaurants from two restaurant groups suffered zero to minimal income of 15% of what they used to earn due to the prohibition of dine-in customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chairman Bill Stelton of the Bistro Group and Eric Dee of Foodie Global Concepts made the disclosure before the House Committee on Trade and Industry as they appealed to authorities to allow dine-in scheme to resume.

Bistro Group has 110 restaurant branches including Denny’s Texas Roadhouse, TGIFridays, Red Lobster, Hard RockCafe, Buffalo Wild Wings, Baker and Cook, Modern Shanghai, Fish and Company, Italianni's, Bulgogi Brothers, Watami, The Test Kitchen, Helm, My South Hall, Savage, Juicy, Chex and El Pollo Loco.

Foodie Global Concepts, on the other hand, has 200 restaurant branches including Todd English Food Hall, TimHoWan, DO, Food, Maisen, Pound, Mesa, Lamesa Grill, Kai, Mangan, Ebun, Kitchen, Krocodile Grille and Cerveseria.

“The P550 million we earned last year, that is completely depleted. Every single cent that we earned last year, we already lost it to compensate for the losses and 2,000 employees who are on a no work, no pay basis,” Stelton said.

“Of our 110 restaurants, only seven offer deliveries, and the turnout is only at 10 to 15% of what we used to earn because this delivery system is not something within our model. People go to restaurants for the service, experience, the ambiance. That is tougher to do in a delivery setting,” he added.

Likewise, Stelton lamented that while some of their employees were deemed qualified by the government to receive a wage subsidy, such assistance was not extended to all of their employees.

“Others within our restaurant group were denied assistance, and it is something we cannot reconcile,” Stelton said.

Foodie Global Concepts’ Dee, on the other hand, said they have closed all of their 200 stores since Luzon was placed on lockdown last March 16 because their viability is not present without the dine-in experience.

“We had zero sales. You go to the restaurant for the experience, ambiance, service and the food. Having the food we offer in a microwavable container which will be delivered to you an hour later is another challenge,” Dee said.

“We have 200 stores and closed all of them. We tried to open a few for delivery and set out actual  revenues, and we are not hitting our target. We are just foreseeing 50% [of what we used to earn], but we are not hitting those numbers,” he added.

Stelton noted that the comeback trail is even tougher since they would need P100 million just to open 30 of their over 100 branches in the next three months.

“The situation affects our viability. We are very profitable, but if we don’t have dine-in guests under current protocol, we will have a difficulty just breaking even,” Stelton said.

Stelton said that they have proposals on how they can make dining in restaurants safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic and put these additional sanitation measures in place as soon as possible.

“There are even some who are just willing to give up their restaurant at no cost because they are bleeding heavily. They are just turning over the keys to us. That is how critical the industry is. A lot of restaurants won’t be able to survive this crisis so we have to move fast to be able to survive,” Stelton said.

Dee agreed, saying that waiver or discounts on rental fees would hardly make a dent without customers being allowed to dine inside restaurants.

“We need to push for safe dine in because it is not just about the rental, but there are no people coming in [the restaurants]. As it is, we have to look at optimizing our operation, and we are looking at closing 30% of our stores,” Dee said.

“We are on a budget, and we need to make money. If we don’t make money, we close. Everyone loses. Kaya kahit break even sana, puede na,” he added. --KBK, GMA News

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