Washington, DC, restaurant owner: 'Our business has changed forever'
Government help is needed and it needs to be done 'right,' Mark Bucher says
Two small business owners fighting to survive after a tough year of closers and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic shared on Sunday how they have adapted to the current situation.
“Our business has changed forever and it’s going to take the government’s help to get it back and get it right,” Mark Bucher, owner of Medium Rare, a restaurant in Washington, D.C., told “America’s News HQ” on Sunday.
“We’re a huge employer in this country, but they need to invite us in,” he continued, stressing that input from small businesses is needed in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
“We can do it better than the government for sure,” Bucher added.
Bucher said he had to change his business model during the pandemic in order to survive.
“We looked adversity in the eye, we said, ‘We’re going to tackle this,’” Bucher said.
“We transitioned very quickly to a 100% to-go model. We put tents outside our restaurants, we heated them, we did all the delivery service stuff, we outsourced our phones and we did online ordering and we got that kind of going.”
While the pandemic has already forced more than 110,000 restaurants out of business since March, according to a survey, a recent report from the National Restaurant Association suggests time is running out for thousands more.
The organization said in December that 10,000 establishments have closed in three months alone and told congressional leaders in a letter that current conditions are unsustainable.
According to a survey of 6,000 restaurant operators, 87% of full-service restaurants saw a 36% drop in sales and 83% said they expected the winter months to be "even worse," with 58% anticipating layoffs and furloughs.
Of the restaurants that have already closed, an estimated 17% had served their communities for an average of 16 years, and 16% had been running for at least 30 years.
As lawmakers weigh Democrats' $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Bucher stressed the importance of getting input from restaurant owners.
“The government’s great at writing checks, as we learned, they’re not great at distribution,” Bucher said. “So it will help if they let us, restaurants, give them advice or let us run that program in terms of how to get food to people and how to better increase our business and what we do, like providing school lunches to public schools, providing meals to other government agencies.”
Speaking on “America’s News HQ” on Sunday, Cassandra Brooks, the owner of the child-care center Little Believer's Academy in North Carolina, also stressed the importance of government helping small businesses during the pandemic.
“We need help right now,” Brooks said, adding that the situation "is dire.”
“I serve essential families, firefighters, CNAs [certified nursing assistants], grocery store workers and they need child care, so they need us to be able to stay open so we need that funding,” she continued. “We can’t do without it.”
Brooks explained that her operating costs have increased significantly during the pandemic.
“It’s been very difficult,” she said.
Brooks added that “like many small businesses, we’ve had to change the way we do things.”
“I’ve had to increase payroll, bring in extra staff to keep children separated as much as possible, we’ve had to invest in air purifiers, an Hvac unit that have been in excess of $5,000, just numerous things, temperature checks,” she explained. “Just the whole gamut has changed, which has increased costs.”
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“When child care was already operating on very small margins, this just kind of tipped us over the edge,” Brooks added.
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Fox News’ Julia Musto contributed to this report.