A local restaurant owner’s point of view

As someone who owns and operates a local restaurant chain, I thought it might be helpful for people to understand what effects these closures have on the small businesses in the restaurant industry and what you can do to help.

Our restaurant concept primarily depends on dine-in and catering services, so I can only really speak to the effects it’s had on us. Catering has become a service that many concepts have been very reliant on over the last several years. Last week, that came to a complete halt. We spent three days doing nothing but taking order cancelations, postponements and refunds requests.

Our catering office is now closed for at least the next four weeks or until the ban on groups congregating is lifted. This week, dine-in options have completely forced restaurants to upend their operations and scramble for ways to drive sales to remain open. Oftentimes people think that it’s “just running your food out” but there is so much more than that. It’s a completely new process, and there is a learning curve associated with that.

Believe me when I tell you that no one wants to let you eat in the dining area more than restaurant staff! With our concept this is what we have seen:

  • 60% to 75% decrease in sales this week alone.
  • We have closed our catering office
  • One of our four locations is closed
  • Our staff has gone from around 100 to about 70 in a matter of a few days with all hourly staff seeing a reduction in hours.

There is a lot going around about how to help local restaurants and that is very much appreciated. I thought people might like to hear from someone on the inside what would be most helpful.

1. Support a local restaurant! All restaurants are affected, so any restaurant is good, but make sure you spread it around. Try to go to a local place one time this week.

2.Support restaurants that don’t have a drive thru! Restaurants with drive thru’s are set up to weather this better than most. While I understand they are hard hit too, restaurants that aren’t previously set up for these government restrictions are going to be the hardest hit.

3. Be patient. The service industry lives on the concept of quick convenience. That’s what we love to provide as much as you love to receive, but things are different. There hasn’t been time to lay out perfect plans and operations, especially for local restaurants. If you wait longer than usual, just think of it this way: Every minute you sit in your car is another minute you are allowing a staff member or small business owner to maintain a living. Hopefully, you find that something worth waiting for.

4. Buy gift cards! Why are gift cards so important? They are essentially short term micro-loans for small businesses. This projects cash directly into a small businesses. If you can buy a gift card from a local restaurant and not use it until after this has passed, you have provided a small business with short term capital to help them get through this.

5. Share, post, review! If you can’t afford to go out to eat, share posts and information to your friends any way you are comfortable. If you go out to eat somewhere, post a picture, help spread the word. If you are like me and don’t like to post very often on social media, think of restaurants you’ve had a good experience at and leave a review! Local restaurants don’t have the ability pay for advertising the same way as the big boys, so help them out in a little way.

I hope people don’t see this as complaining or begging for help because that isn’t what any small business owner ever wants. I’m a fairly private person and don’t enjoy a spotlight. For me, I realize I am far more fortunate than most and am extremely grateful for all the support we have received thus far.

This is really about allowing people to continue to have a job through one of the most uncertain times of any of our lives. My hope is that you find this informational and use it to help the small businesses in your area that need it most.

There are a ton of great ways to help, and any one of them is much appreciated. Do what you can in your local area and pass the word along! Thank you.

JEFF MCFADDEN, owner of

Wallabys Smokehouse

We must question government’s response to COVID-19

It is not politicizing COVID-19 to question our government’s response and decisions, especially regarding this virus. Questions should be asked now. Anyone who tells us it’s unpatriotic or partisan to question, criticize or investigate any administration is telling us to set aside our rights of citizenship. It’s akin to telling us to “sit down, shut-up and go-with-the-flow, they know what’s best for you.”

We must question and investigate every aspect of this pandemic, even as it’s happening. How can we learn from our mistakes if we don’t flesh them out, accept accountability, learn and, hopefully, not repeat them in the future days, weeks and months as this virus spreads from one state to another? If we don’t accomplish these crucial steps now, we weaken ourselves. Let’s learn from the hotspots of the world so we can save more lives here in Utah.

To that end, we do ourselves a disservice by insulating ourselves from avenues of information. Like it or not, journalists are the ones who have access to ask questions. They have investigative tools Americans don’t; they have trusted sources who share information; leaking information to us is not traitorous. It’s how we discovered Nixon’s failing.

A healthy scrutiny of all media is important, but to ignore most outlets, focusing on only one or two, is not trusting our own ability to seek knowledge, our own ability to reason, our own intuition and our own judgment. Discernment can’t be utilized unless we seek many sources of information, not just ones who report what makes us feel good or supports our personal views. Now, more than ever we need all the information we can get to protect our health and save lives.

This isn’t policy, it’s protection.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to see and read real accounts from the medical community, from the “front-lines” of this war with COVID-19. These will be the real, raw accounts from our fellow Americans. Doctors and nurses are going to question, criticize and praise the government’s role in this fight. They already are. Let’s give them the right to be authentic and truthful, without accusing them of being “fake news.”

CHRISTINE COFFMAN, Provo