Coronavirus Impact: Local Restaurants Adjust to New Normal
Restaurants all across the northwest suburbs are adjusting to a new normal after Governor Tim Walz ordered the closure of all Minnesota restaurants and bars to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The closure takes effect at 5 p.m. Restaurants will still be able to offer takeout, curbside pickup and delivery.
At Nonna Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano in Robbinsdale, owners Tina and Francesco Suglia are figuring out staffing and new hours knowing that takeout won’t be enough to cover the loss of customers who dined in.
“We understand why this needs to happen,” said Tina Suglia. “We don’t fault the system that tries to keep us safe.”
Nonna Rosa’s like so many others will likely have to cut staff.
“The best thing to do is lay our staff off for a couple weeks, give them access to the unemployment relief fund that’s being formed.”
Governor Walz signed an order to strengthen Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. It will allow the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to pay unemployment benefits immediately, providing fast relief to employees who need it.
“There’s No Work. There’s Nothing They Can Do”
For Francine Weber, owner of Milton’s Vittle, Vino and Beer in Crystal, the restaurant plans to continue offering its soul food staples through takeout and is also working on a delivery option.
“We will try our best to have specials available that are affordable during these times,” said Weber.
The restaurant is known for its shrimp and grits, creamy mac and cheese, and finger-licking chicken wings. On Monday, Milton’s started offering discount family-style meals for $30 plus tax to help families. The meals will change daily, Weber said, but customers have to call ahead and pay over the phone.
Even with the promotion, Weber says the restaurant will have to cut 70 percent of employee hours.
“There’s no work, there’s nothing they can do,” said Weber. “The day and night shift crews are splitting hours and rotating so everyone can get some hours in.”
Some employees who have other jobs are donating tips to other team members who rely on a paycheck from Milton’s, said Weber.
“We Want to Just Feed People”
Nonna Rosa’s had previously been distancing its customers to adjust to the outbreak. Now that dining in is off limits, Suglia says the restaurant will have to cut hours.
“My staff wants to work. My staff needs the money. And how can we keep them on if there’s not going to be any income?” said Suglia.
For the Suglias, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected them in more ways than one. They have family in Italy, a country plagued by the coronavirus outbreak. Suglia has stayed in contact with relatives overseas while that country remains shut down.
“Nonna Rosa is stuck there,” Suglia said referring to her husband Francesco’s mom. “She can’t even come here.”
Suglia also mentioned one of her restaurant’s servers who is stranded in Italy. That server had graduated from college in December and was traveling abroad.
In the meantime, Suglia says regular customers have inundated her with texting and calling.
“It’s frustrating, because we want to just feed people,” she said. “Right now, is so important to make sure everybody is getting their food.”
What Other Restaurants Have Done
In Maple Grove, 3 Squares announced on Facebook that it’s closing during the coronavirus outbreak. The restaurant decided against takeout.
“Until we see you again… be well and stay healthy,” wrote Stephanie Shimp and David Burley, co-owners of Blue Plate Restaurant Co., which oversees 3 Squares.
CCX News Reporter Sonya Goins contributed to this report.