The coronavirus has ravaged the restaurant space, with over 1 in 6 bars and eateries in the U.S. (approximately 110,000) permanently shut down as a direct result of the pandemic.
But award winning chef Daniel Boulud, who owns seven fine dining restaurants in New York City and six in national and international destinations, says he is optimistic that COVID-19 will soon give way to a stronger, more resilient industry.
“I have two restaurants open right now...[but] I’m still very hopeful,” he told Yahoo Finance during a recent interview. Many other Boulud establishments around the globe, including Singapore, are currently open.
“You know, the vaccine is coming in, and a lot of people are getting vaccinated and I’m very hopeful that New York City will come back strong — maybe not until mid or late 2021. It’s challenging but we’re hopeful,” Boulud added.
In the meantime, Boulud has flexed his creative muscles with the pandemic forcing restauranteurs to “rethink everything” as indoor dining still remains shut down in New York City.
Boulud’s restaurants — which cater to the more high-end, white tablecloth experience — have utilized heated, curbside bungalows to shield customers from harsh winter winds while dining outdoors. Many other eateries around the Big Apple have followed suit, as the fall gave way to cooler temperatures and inclement weather.
“This pandemic has been teaching us a lot — how to rebound and find opportunities and ideas to continue to do what we love...and continue to engage with our customer and bring them the service we are known for in a different way,” he told Yahoo Finance.
Although some critics have questioned whether the makeshift outdoor bungalows really help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Boulud insisted they “are safe...and they’ve helped me save jobs.” He added that saving the jobs of his team members is a “very, very important” factor in saving his businesses.
The industry has been hammered by the crisis, with leisure and hospitality employment shedding 498,000 jobs during the month of December alone. Food services accounted for 372,000 of those job losses, Labor Department data showed.
Overall, employment in the bar and restaurant space has fallen 23 percent during the pandemic — outpacing every other industry, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal data.
Aid is expected to arrive soon, with President -elect Joe Biden offering up a nearly $2 trillion rescue package. Meanwhile, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has championed the bipartisan Restaurants Act, which would provide $120 billion to eateries nationwide.
However, many restaurant workers and owners fear that it might just be too little, too late.
The New York State Restaurant Association revealed in its most recent survey of 6,000 restaurant owners in the state that more than half say it’s unlikely their restaurants will still be open by July without substantial government relief. The survey also found 78% expected more layoffs over the next several months.
To help give back amid these trying times, Boulud will be launching a virtual cooking class series January 14 - February 4, where a portion of all sales will be donated to City Meals-on-Wheels, a nonprofit organization in New York City that raises private funds to provide prepared meals and social support to homebound elderly residents.
Alexandra Canal is a producer & entertainment correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193.