Local restaurant workers face unprecedented challenges amid pandemic

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The challenges the food service industry faces are unprecedented. 

The pandemic has changed the way people are ordering and consuming food from restaurants.

Restaurants are now trying to recreate the dining experience in the age of COVID-19. 

“We do some takeout and delivery as well. We use an online platform and online services for delivery, and so we have been trying to leverage that a little bit more,” Wing Chan said.

Chan’s family runs a downtown Greensboro staple.

For 20 years, Midori Japanese Hibachi has relied on the lunch rush. But with more people working from home, orders have slowed down. 

“You know at one point, we had heard that some of the larger area companies were going to be sending workers back to physical locations in mid-July. We are almost at that point in time, but I think that’s maybe pushed back a little more,” Chan said.

Even as North Carolina eases restrictions, restaurants aren’t seeing a full rebound in sales. 

“For your full service and fine dining restaurants that are heavily dependent upon people coming and sitting in the dining room, I think there’s been a major shift. I think there’s been a psychological shift from a lot of customers that are fearful of sitting inside a restaurant,” Algenon Cash said.

Cash is the director of the Triad Food and Beverage Coalition. He’s witnessing first hand COVID-19’s devastating effect on the service industry. 

“I think what we are seeing is a permanent shift. Sometimes I hear people say, ‘hey, I can’t wait to get back to normal.’ Well, I don’t think what we knew as normal will be normal ever again,” Cash said.

Now, more than ever before, diners’ loyalty will be critical to restaurant recovery. 

“We are getting calls regularly from customers wondering about if we are open, so I think that’s good that there is still engagement from the community around that,” Chan said. 

“These are the same people that sponsor your little league teams. These are the people that buy the ads in your yearbooks, and I think right now they need our help and need our support the most,” Cash said. 

Midori Japanese Hibachi is one of over 40 businesses to receive a $1,500 grant from Downtown Greensboro Inc.

The family says it’s those acts of support that are able to help them maintain their space downtown during the pandemic. 

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