SRU professor provides restaurant owners advice as webinar panelist
Restaurants in Butler County like Rooster's Coffee Bar in Slippery Rock are faced with difficult decisions as they navigate state orders related to the coronavirus outbreak. Mary Jo Ross, a Slippery Rock University associate professor of hospitality, event management and tourism, and other panelists provided restaurant owners advice during a recent webinar hosted by the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau.
May 13, 2020
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Mary Jo Ross, a Slippery Rock University associate professor of hospitality, event management and tourism, was a panelist last week on a webinar for restaurant owners hosted by the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau.
The webinar, titled "Butler County Restaurants in a COVID World," provided guidance to restaurants owners about reopening their businesses following state orders to close because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Ross joined three other panelists: Jack Cohen, president of BCTCB; Brian Hunter, managing partner of Firebirds Wood Fire Grill; Bob McCafferty, owner of North Country Brewing Company; and Timothy Fane, director of business resources at Sysco, a food services company.
Ross, who teaches a Food and Beverage class at SRU, discussed what measures restaurants need to take be economically viable while still following guidelines and restrictions from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, seated groups of customers need to be six feet apart and that could limit restaurant's occupancy and potential revenue.
"The reason these (occupancy) decisions are so complicated is every (restaurant) has a different design," Ross said. "Some restaurants won't be able to get up to 20 or 25 percent occupancy if they are very small because they are going to have to lose more tables and booths to stay within that parameter."
Ross also discussed business plans, such as having a cost-benefit analysis for how many potential turns at a table can be made in a given day, as well accounting for overhead costs and having workers come back at the risk of getting sick.
"We need to go (forward) with a lot of caution," Ross said. "Just because you've got the green light and you can open the doors, that doesn't mean people are going to walk through them. The key drivers of bringing people back to these spaces is they need to have a feeling that they are in a safe environment. That will be extremely difficult for the casual dining market because they have large numbers of people in a very confined space."
"(There is) due diligence you have to do now and how can you adjust your revenue income with (takeout) and delivery and selling retail food, whatever it's going to be to keep the lights on."
A recording of the webinar is available on the BCTCB's YouTube page.
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