COVID-19 and restaurants: ‘Make a phone call, order food, come in, grab a beer. Pray for the best’

  • Peterborough’s Yen-Yen is one of many restaurants that have adjusted to serve takeout only. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • The Bagel Mill posted signs advertizing its curbside takeout service and hours after on-site dining facilities closed statewide on Monday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Savannah Affeldt works at the Bagel Mill on Thursday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Reilly McCarty paints a dining table at Bantam Grill on Thursday. On-site dining was banned statewide on Monday to combat the spread of COVID-19. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Savannah Affeldt and manager Amanda MacKinnon at the Bagel Mill on Thursday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Reilly McCarty paints tables at Bantam Grill on Thursday after on-site dining was banned statewide on Monday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Reilly McCarty paints tables at Bantam Grill on Thursday after on-site dining was banned statewide on Monday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The dining room at the Bagel Mill in Peterborough is closed following a statewide ban on on-site dining on Monday. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Bantam Grill offers bottles of wine and beer to go for takeout customers following an emergency order from the state on Wednesday that allowing the takeout and delivery of beer and wine. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Manager Amanda MacKinnon waits on a customer at the Bagel Mill in Peterborough Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/19/2020 3:11:52 PM

New Hampshire restaurant sales plummeted after Gov. Chris Sununu banned on-site dining last Monday in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Many local businesses laid off their waitstaff and many others are working under scaled-back hours. Some have switched to take-out only establishments and others have closed for lack of take-out customers.

“It’s not going good, that’s for sure,” Pizza Peddler owner Chris Petrakos said of business at his Peterborough restaurant on Wednesday.

The restaurant is offering its full menu for take-out, as well as gift cards, but he said sales were significantly down. “[People] don’t even want to get out of their houses ... I get it, everyone’s scared,” he said.

Sales at Bantam Grill and Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar dropped 50 percent last Friday and Saturday, and were down to just a quarter of regular business when the restaurants shifted to take-out, owner Harris Welden said. He has laid off 26 of the 53 staff members between the restaurants last Monday. A lot of residents stocked up on groceries over the weekend, he said, adding he hopes that as people tire of eating at home, they’ll order take-out.

“The more this becomes the new norm, the busier we’re going to be,” he said on Wednesday.

The remaining cooks and dishwashers at Bantam Grill and Pearl Restaurant are running deliveries, Welden said, which now includes cans and bottles of beer and wine to go after a state emergency order allowed takeout sales on Wednesday.

“We’ve been in business for 75 years. I don’t think we’ve had a mandated closure like this ever before,” Jordan Cuddemi of Alberto’s Italian Restaurant in Bennington said on Wednesday.

The restaurant, which can seat 150, dealt a swift business with to-go corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, Cuddemi said, but said she is unsure how that will translate to take-out orders going forward.

“Our waitresses are not working right now,” she said, including two who had been with the restaurant for decades.

Alberto’s is trying to give most of the staff some shifts, she said, albeit at reduced hours.

At the Hungry Goats Eatery in Greenfield, owner June Holm said she and her husband Dwayne were the only ones working after she let their four-member waitstaff go.

“They all understood and said they would come back” if the restaurant survives, she said. “I don’t know how to help them.”

Holm said her next task was to adapt the Friday and Saturday night fried fish special to something more suitable for take-out.

At Lab and Lager in Jaffrey, owner Doni Ash estimated they’d had a 10th of sales since the emergency order.

“Enough to keep the doors open I guess, and for employees to get a small paycheck at the end of the week,” he said.

Previously full-time employees have been working about 10 hours a week.

“We technically haven’t laid anybody off, I hope I’m wrong but I think it’s coming,” he said.

The restaurant is giving 10 percent of every night’s sales to the employees that worked that evening.

“I think we’ll get through this, I’m more afraid for my employees than anyone else. I’m trying to look out for them right now,” Ash said.

He said he does not plan to offer deliveries.

“Surprisingly, we’re doing pretty well,” said administrative assistant Lauren O’Grady at The Toll Booth Tavern in Francestown.

Takeout orders are high, as well as gratuities for their five laid-off waitresses, she said. The restaurant was just getting ready to bulk up numbers from its winter staff, O’Grady said.

“I would have felt so terrible,” she said, if they had already taken on more staff.

One concern for Bagel Mill Manager Amanda MacKinnon is the restaurant’s ability to receive food orders. Their two suppliers are from Massachusetts, she said, and she worries how she would obtain the 900 pounds of flour the Bagel Mill needs weekly if the distributors or state borders close.

“I can’t exactly go to Shaw’s,” she said.

Every restaurant interviewed said patrons could purchase gift cards to support them, and that any amount of takeout business could help.

“Make a phone call, order food, come in, grab a beer. Pray for the best,” Ash said.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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