Local Restaurant Closing Down: Elbistro

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Elbistro Restaurant

Elbistro will close its doors at the end of this week after 20 years of service because of the effects of Covid-19. The restaurant is one of the most iconic businesses within our city because of the quality food they offer. The announcement on their Instagram page was made on Thursday, just five days before their closure.

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“It has been a pleasure serving every customer who came into the hotel. Unfortunately, we have decided to close for good due to the pandemic. We have reduced the staff due to the closures and Covid-19 rules, but the measures have not helped the situation. We will officially close down next week Friday 11th”, their Instagram message read.

The news was not received well by the residents and the staff, who are sad to see the restaurant close down. Since the restaurant opened, it has won over the hearts of the people of Bayside with its variety of noodles and fresh vegetables. Most items used in their recipes are sourced locally from the farmers, while noodles are made in-house. The closure of the business shows how the pandemic has impacted the hotel industry (Landry, 2021). To understand more about the closure of the restaurant, I interviewed the manager of Elbistro, one resident, and one staff member of Elbistro.

Impacts of the Pandemic on Businesses

Every year restaurant closures are common because the margins are slim (Spiegel, & Tookes, 2020). The pandemic has increased the likelihood of more restaurants closing than normal.

“The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on the restaurant industry due to the lockdown measures. It has been hard for our hotel to operate at full capacity because we had to consider the protocols of social distancing. This meant sacking some employees, which was a difficult thing to do”, the manager noted.

The Queens neighborhood has high rents for small spaces which may derail any business, especially when facing a pandemic. “We have been paying high rent prices because of the area we are set up. Initially, it was easy because we were making money and business was good. In the past year, the number of customers has decreased by over 70% due to restrictions and a preference for ‘take away’ ”, the manage noted. Customers have taken to take away because they limit their chances of contracting the virus (Byrd et al., 2021). The manager Mr. Gilbert is a native of Queens and is sad to see the iconic restaurant close down. He has worked at the hotel since he was a little child as the restaurant is owned by his family.

His grandfather set up the hotel when he came into the country as an immigrant. His noodle recipes are still in use in the hotel, with only a few additions done to some recipes. The closure of the restaurant will be a great loss to the community of Queens.

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“We have been in Queens for the past 20 years, and we have seen it grow to a vibrant community. It will be sad to stop serving the community our food because of the bond we have created together. Till we close down officially next Friday, I welcome our loyal fans to come and enjoy a delicious bowl of noodles”, the manager adds. It promises to be a gloomy last week at Elbistro as staff say their goodbyes to clients.

Rising Unemployment

The closure of various businesses has led to the loss of employment to many people around the country (Dube et al., 2020). This has increased the unemployment rates within the area, which has led to some of the residents sounding an alarm. Rising unemployment is one of the key factors that lead to rising crime rates (Yost et al., 2021). Myles Renard, a resident of Queens for 15 years, has been a regular visitor of Elbistro.

“I enjoy their ramen noodles and roasted pork, and I visit the hotel two times a week or sometimes even more. It is sad to see that they are closing down, and it makes me more worried because people are losing their jobs. This may increase the number of violent robberies within the area as people search for ways to make ends meet,” Renard notes. Crime rates are directly proportional to unemployment rates in many towns within the country (Goddard, 2020). The residents are afraid because of the history of the neighborhood and fear that recent gains may be undone by the pandemic.

Potential Solutions

People can access unemployment benefits from the state, which may not be enough in cases where people have mortgages to pay. “We are lucky to have access to unemployment benefits which help in times like this. Most of the people will be able to buy food and pay bills which is better than nothing. Also, as a community, we have come up with a program to help the most affected people in our community by offering them food and other basic needs,” Renard outlines. Vincenzo Portilla, a staff member at Elbistro, tells me about his plans. “I had already started a side job where I bake cakes and sell them to customers. I will continue with the side job and may even add other items such as banana bread. I think that there is potential even in this situation we are in, and we have to make the best out of it.”

Vincenzo appears hopeful, probably because he has somewhere to run to when the job ends. Most of the staff members will have to find a new job at short notice, which may be problematic in the current job market (Brizek et al., 2021). “Many places are looking to downsize to try and deal with the financial impact of the pandemic. We have to be smart in the decisions we make because we are in a difficult situation. The pandemic may last for another year which may be devastating to the restaurant industry.”

References

Brizek, M. G., Frash, R. E., McLeod, B. M., & Patience, M. O. (2021). Independent restaurant operator perspectives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 93, 102766. Web.

Byrd, K., Her, E., Fan, A., Almanza, B., Liu, Y., & Leitch, S. (2021). Restaurants and COVID-19: What are consumers’ risk perceptions about restaurant food and its packaging during the pandemic? International Journal of Hospitality Management, 94, 102821. Web.

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Dube, K., Nhamo, G., & Chikodzi, D. (2020). COVID-19 cripples’ global restaurant and hospitality industry. Current Issues in Tourism, 1-4. Web.

Goddard, E. (2020). The impact of COVID‐19 on food retail and foodservice in Canada: Preliminary assessment. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue Canadienne agroeconomic. Web.

Landry, C. E., Bergstrom, J., Salazar, J., & Turner, D. (2021). How has the COVID‐19 pandemic affected outdoor recreation in the US? A revealed preference approach. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 43(1), 443-457. Web.

Spiegel, M., & Tookes, H. (2020). Business restrictions and Covid-19 fatalities1. Covid Economics, 20. Web.

Yost, E., Kizildag, M., & Ridderstaat, J. (2021). Financial recovery strategies for restaurants during COVID-19: Evidence from the US restaurant industry. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 47, 408-412. Web.

Appendix A

Interview Questions

The Manager

  1. What has led to the closure of the business?
  2. Did you try other solutions, like asking for a loan from the bank, or assistance from the government through their small business program?
  3. How did you break the news to the staff members and what was their reaction?
  4. This community has offered support to the hotel for the years you have been set up, what can you tell them?
  5. The pandemic has affected many businesses, do you see a trend of more restaurant’s closures in the coming months

The Resident

  1. What is your reaction to the closure of Elbistro?
  2. How many times do you visit the restaurant and what was your favorite dish?
  3. What is the impact of the pandemic on the community?
  4. Are you afraid of the rising unemployment rates in the country?
  5. What is the community doing to help the vulnerable members of the community?

Staff Member

  1. What was your reaction after the news that the hotel will be closed down?
  2. Do you have any plans after this job?
  3. Do you think the closure of businesses will affect the community?
  4. What should be done to help reopen businesses from your point of view?

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