Chris Shepherd, a James Beard award-winning chef who owns four restaurants in Houston, has consolidated his operations to just his steakhouse "Georgia James." His restaurant group is trying to weather the storm of coronavirus related shut downs for in-room dining by converting the business to take out only. So, he's made the steakhouse the hub of his "to go" operation.
"Normally our entrees are $38, we're selling everything at 12 bucks, 14 bucks, trying to keep it affordable," Shepherd said. "We're doing things we've never done before."
The economic slow-down has been grim for Houston's hospitality industry, Shepherd said he has furloughed his hourly staff and is operating with a skeleton crew.
"We're doing this to make sure that we can pay the bills, so that this restaurant and all of our restaurants are there for when this is over that they can come back to work to," Shepherd said.
The chef and restauranteur tries to make up for the pain of lost wages by cooking a house meal daily for furloughed staffers. He has no idea how the relief bill spinning through the halls of congress may help him or his employees but he said it can't come soon enough.
COVID-19 has dealt a blow to customer demand in dining. Houston has another economic wave of uncertainty to surf—an oil supply glut. As economies slow down during coronavirus response, demand for petroleum products is expected to dip even though cheap gas will be on the horizon for months.
University of Houston economic forecaster Bill Gilmer says restaurant owners and their employees feel the pinch of this economic contraction first and hardest. Gilmer adds city budgets will feel the effect of us not dining out too.
"This is going to create a huge hole in budgets, for cities and municipalities," Gilmer said. "Half of the sales tax revenue through the state, comes from retail sales, food service and accommodation."
Shepherd said he doesn't know how long he can carry his current business model but he's going to go on as long as possible—hoping the hospitality industry shutdowns end as the coronavirus cloud clears.
(Picture Credit: representative image/AP)