The pandemic has hit restaurants hard, very hard. One of our loyal restaurant customers, Forage in Cambridge, MA, has done everything they can to keep going — including launching a CSA-style grocery program for their customers with produce and other local food products purchased from Market Mobile.
We took a moment to ask Owner/General Manager Stan Hilbert a few questions about his experience running a neighborhood bistro over the last year.
1. In three words, describe the impact of COVID on your restaurant.
2. What has been the most challenging part of navigating the pandemic as a business owner?
Obviously the financial challenge was the biggest. Having to pay the bills with 25-30% of sales you were doing the previous year.
The other challenging part has been being flexible and adapting to the changes in the law. That and figuring out where to store all the takeout containers and bags…
3. There have been some silver-linings as well. What are some of yours?
Time to slow down and spend more time with my family. Raising children, being home at night, and operating a restaurant don’t mix well in terms of schedule. You start to realize what is really important and how to make it work.
4. How do you think the events of the last year will change the restaurant industry in the future — both positively and negatively?
I think there will be more attention paid to employees’ health and wellbeing, more empathy. Customers will hopefully realize that restaurant workers are humans too and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Paying for a service doesn’t give people the right to be jerks; this is not just in the restaurant — I see this in retail all the time.
I hope service workers in general will be treated with more respect, especially after having worked through the pandemic without the option of working from home.
5. From your perspective, how has the pandemic impacted the food chain? What lessons can we take with us?
I do see that people look at where their food comes from and want to support local farmers. When food ran out at stores, restaurants were there to help people out — and in our case, bring them local produce straight from the farm.
However, bad habits come back fast. So while I’m hopeful that’s a trend to stay, Amazon & Whole Foods make it way too easy for people…