The End of Restaurants as We Know Them?


By Richard Davis

Sadly, one of the sectors of the economy taking a major hit during the pandemic is the restaurant industry. Many places have gone out of business and those that remain are struggling to figuring out a way to create a new kind of business model that promotes financial viability.

When restaurants ramp down and close there are all kinds of ripple effects in the economy. People lose jobs and supporting industries, which include farmers, also feel the pinch. If one looked at the pandemic solely from an economic viewpoint that would mean that opening all public businesses would be the highest priority.

Those who put a smaller value on human lives, such as the U.S. President and his administration, have pushed hard to re-open commerce. The results have been predictable and more new cases of COVID 19 are popping up while the U.S. death toll is quickly reaching 200,000.

If you looked for a scenario where a country did everything wrong to deal with the pandemic, the U.S. would be a perfect case study. Other countries that opened too soon are now having to back up and lock down their economies again. If a country had a sensible approach that was cautious and based on the best science, the economy would be much worse but fewer people would be getting sick and dying. There are no easy choices.

In order to dine at a restaurant or bar means that a person has to remove their mask. Distancing may slow the spread of disease a little but when you are in an environment where people are talking and spraying into the atmosphere disease transmission is facilitated.

Restaurants in colder climates have been able to buy a little time during the summer by creating outdoor dining spaces, but if they have to move indoors the risk of disease transmission will increase.

A recent article on the Medscape web site titled Restaurants May Be Key Component to COVID-19 Spread “compared 154 adults who had symptoms of COVID-19 and had tested positive for the disease with 160 adults who had similar symptoms and who tested negative. The two groups were matched by age, sex, and study location.”

Here are some key findings. “Those who tested positive were 2.4 times more likely to have dined at a restaurant in the 2 weeks prior to falling ill. In the study, restaurant dining included being seated at a patio, being seated outdoors, or being seated indoors.”
They go on. “Among participants who had not come into recent contact with someone who had COVID-19, those who tested positive were almost three times more likely to have dined at a restaurant. In this subset, those who tested positive were almost four times as likely to have gone to a bar or café. Among the 107 participants who reported dining at a restaurant and the 21 who reported going to a bar or coffee shop, those who tested positive for COVID-19 were less likely to report seeing most of the other patrons adhering to recommendations such as wearing a mask or maintaining distance from each other.”

My question after reading the results of this small study is whether it is really worth it to dine out during the pandemic. I feel bad for restaurants and bars and I hope they can find a creative solution to stay in business. My life is not worth sacrificing for a meal at a restaurant.

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