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Celebrity Chef Tom Colicchio: Restaurants Will Have To Adapt
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Chef Tom Colicchio and The Judges of Bravo's "Top Chef" In conversation at 92nd Street Y on November 28, 2017 in New York City.
John Lamparski/Getty Images

Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio (“Top Chef”) said that restaurants will have to adapt to the current climate as states look to reopen, noting that they will not be able to go back to business-as-usual for some time.

Speaking with Fox News, Colicchio said without question that the COVID-19 pandemic will change the restaurant industry and outlined some ways those industries can adapt.

“Clearly we have to come up with some hybrid model, especially for the next year,” said Colicchio. “Because à la carte dining, with the spacing that [we’ll need to implement], and knowing that most likely bartenders, waiters are going to have to wear masks… People aren’t necessarily going to be very comfortable going to a restaurant like that.”

Colicchio noted that restaurants and banquet spaces dependent on private parties that can host upwards of 100 people are going to be hurt the worst, noting that “business isn’t coming back anytime soon.”

“If you have sales through private parties or banquet spaces where you have 120 to 300-seat banquet rooms, that business isn’t coming back any time soon,” said the celebrity chef. “So, we have to move to kind of an à la carte model, with also to-go orders. A combination of sort of chefs, and partnerships with chefs, suppliers and farmers, and stuff like that, to create takeaway boxes that can be picked up at the restaurant. So yeah, I don’t know yet.”

“Definitely when it reopens there will be some sort of a combination of different ways to do business… at least to get through for the next year, or until we find a vaccine,” he concluded.

Speaking with Tucker Carlson of Fox News last month, celebrity chef Robert Irvine (“Restaurant: Impossible”) said that restaurants will have to implement changes: cleaning habits, seating plans, and possibly even menu sizes.

“A restaurant, like any other business, has a break-even point, and that’s a huge thing when we come into business,” said Irvine. “People need to come back to work, but it has to be done safely. We are not going back to full 300-seat restaurants. We have to let the guests know that it’s safe to come into not only the restaurant but the stores at the same time. People are going to be scared, and … we don’t know what’s going on. I’m not a doctor, [but] I know I want to get back to work. My life is about saving restaurants and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

“[A]ll those mom-and-pop restaurants and mom-and-pop stores need business. We need money. That’s the way the world goes around. So let’s start doing it and do it smartly,” Irvine continued. “Listen to the experts, but also let’s be smart when we say, ‘OK, you can let 50 people in your restaurant over a two-hour period.’ And then you have to adjust everything … We have to lay out [new guidelines] clearly for [guests] so they know what to expect.”

In March, the National Restaurant Association predicted that 11% of restaurants could be closing permanently. Hudson Riehle, the Association’s senior vice president of research, said the data shows the industry is in “uncharted territory.”

“Association research found that 54% of operators made the switch to all off-premises services; 44% have had to temporarily close down. This is uncharted territory,” said Riehle. “The industry has never experienced anything like this before.”

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