News and Commentary

Chef Robert Irvine Talks Restaurants Reopening: ‘Do It Smartly’
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 13: Chef and TV personality Robert Irvine visits the Build Series to discuss The Food Network series “Restaurant: Impossible” at Build Studio on January 13, 2020 in New York City.
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Celebrity chef Robert Irvine appeared on Tucker Carlson Thursday night and laid out some practical steps for restaurants reopening in the next few months.

Understanding that restaurants reopening will have to come with enhanced safety precautions, Irvine said that businesses will have to adapt to measures of social distancing, which will require some 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,”he said, as reported by Fox News. “People need to come back to work but it has to be done safely.”

“We are not going back to full 300-seat restaurants,” he admitted. “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.”

Irvine has been keeping in touch with former clients of his on the show “Restaurant: Impossible,” instructing them on ways to keep afloat during this difficult crisis. He stressed the importance of reopening those businesses while advising them to work with experts.

“[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,” he said. “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.”

The restaurant industry has taken a beating during the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Last month, 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.”

Even chain restaurants have been impacted by the pandemic. Last week, Cheesecake Factory Chairman and CEO David Overton told all landlords that the business would not be able to meet rent for any of its 300 restaurant locations.

The restaurant closures have sent a shockwave well-beyond the food world and into the farming industry. This week, the Associated Press reported that mountains of produce were essentially left to rot in Florida because the farmers had no place to sell it.

“Thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables grown in Florida are being plowed over or left to rot because farmers can’t sell to restaurants, theme parks or schools nationwide that have closed because of the coronavirus,” reported the outlet. “Other states are having the same issues — agriculture officials say leafy greens in California are being hit especially hard, and dairy farmers in Vermont and Wisconsin say they have had to dump a surplus of milk intended for restaurants.”