LA County Restaurants Shut Down Again

Last weekend, L.A. County rocked restaurants once again by implementing shutdown orders for both essential and nonessential businesses. From Saturday, November 21st to December 21st, there will be a modified stay-at-home order in place that sets a 10PM-5AM curfew for counties who are at greater risk from the pandemic, which applies to most of Southern California.

Outdoor dining was suspended the next day. Restaurants in L.A. County have already been through a rollercoaster this past year, with so many restaurants either closed or on the verge of closing because of how badly COVID-19 affected business. Spring shutdowns had a lot of restaurants turning to patio or outdoor dining solutions such as placing tables in the streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Now, starting at 10PM on Wednesday the 25th, restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be able to offer takeout and delivery for the next three weeks, a crackdown the likes of which they haven’t experienced since May.

These changes aren’t limited to L.A. Similar shutdowns are happening all over the country as fatigue sets in and the case numbers continue to climb with the changing season. The lack of masks and general fatigue over pandemic restrictions are causing an uptick in people testing positive for COVID-19, and restaurants are paying the price.

Restaurants Grow Concerned

Business owners are worried, not just about the health of their own restaurant, but for their staff and customers too. Workers in the food service industry  often live paycheck to paycheck and will suffer when their hours inevitably get cut. It’s also a distinct source of tension that federal and state governments haven’t expressed a plan to support these businesses with another stimulus check.

Despite the lack of incoming stimulus money, restaurants have already invested a lot into making their businesses functional again in a cautious new world. For example they built outdoor seating areas or winterized the ones they had, installing heaters, roofs and more— none of which they can use with dining services shut down. Due to the political unrest that’s been building around the U.S., many also spent time and effort boarding up their storefronts in fear that protests would turn into riots. All of this is on top of the financial trouble that restaurants already were experiencing from a summer of rapidly-fluctuating reopening and closing procedures.

Unfortunately, restrictions are unlikely to ease until positive tests and hospitalizations go back down. Stay-at-home orders and shutdown restrictions were set in place because on Sunday, L.A. County reported 2,718 new cases and nine deaths, with a 92% increase in hospitalizations from last month. If these numbers keep rising, Los Angeles is expected to crack down further.

What Restaurants Can Do

Aside from following local ordinances and adapting to offer the safest possible dining experience, restaurants will have to shift to takeout and delivery until cases in the area decrease again. This change can be difficult, but you don’t have to confront it alone.

First and foremost, carve out your market for takeout and delivery. This might be slightly different than your core audience for a brick-and-mortar restaurant because depending on your delivery radius, you might reach more, or different, people but also because you’ll change your menu to dishes optimized for travel. This is a good opportunity to get creative with whatever you have left in stock which will otherwise go bad before you can reopen for dine-in services.

With most takeout and delivery platforms online now, you’ll also have to revitalize your online strategies for marketing and SEO. A lot of off-premise ordering happens on-the-go now so you’ll want to make sure you’re compatible with mobile searches. This is also a good time to consider how you’re going to offer delivery, whether through third parties, a branded app or under your own power if you have the channels to do so.

Finally, get ready to announce these changes to the world. Put the news on your social media and let your customers know about the switch, your new hours, and anything else you want to be aware of that will encourage them to support your business during these difficult financial times.

It will be a long few weeks as restaurants wait to see what will happen to the industry next. As COVID-19 cases continue to proliferate, only time will tell how long until they can reopen for full service once again in L.A. County. In the meantime, look into smarter ways to handle operations with only takeout and delivery to offer.

Editor's Picks