Coronavirus takes brutal toll on small U.S. eateries

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTHONY STRONG, OWNER AND CHEF AT PRAIRIE RESTAURANT, SAYING:

“I figure, you know, anything is better than me just throwing my hands up, locking the door and laying off like all of our - we have 25 staff members right now.”

San Francisco restaurant owner and chef Anthony Strong turned his eatery into a market - selling groceries to customers in addition to take-out orders - as the measures enacted to fight the coronavirus begun to decimate the restaurant industry.

Strong says he adapted his business model to keep his staff employed, and to help keep the people in his community fed.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTHONY STRONG, OWNER AND CHEF AT PRAIRIE RESTAURANT, SAYING:

"Most items are our bulk and shelf stable and ready to eat… You know, we're not trying to do anything cutesy or gourmet here or ego driven. I just want to get some people some food."

Strong is certainly not alone in his struggle. An increasing number of states and regions have enforced social distancing measures – forcing the closure of eateries, bars, gyms and other "non-essential" businesses.

The National Restaurant Association estimates the industry could take a $225 billion hit in the next three months, threatening millions of jobs.

Many establishments - like Farley’s cafes in San Francisco and Oakland - are cutting staff and closing shops.

Farley’s Co-owner, Amy Hillyard:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AMY HILLYARD, CO-OWNER OF FARLEY'S, SAYING:

"We don't have enough money in the bank to keep our staff employed. It was better for them to be laid off, for them to, to give them what we can, so we can all make our way forward in this new world order.”

The owners provided food - like beans, granola and a vegan coconut curry made from unsold produce - to their outgoing staff of 40.

Now, they say, they need the government to step up and help the industry as a whole.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AMY HILLYARD, CO-OWNER OF FARLEY'S, SAYING:

“…They’re going to have to give us a bailout…”

The Hillyards are still hoping they will be able to reopen when the city’s ‘shelter in place’ order is lifted and members of the community can physically be together again.