As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the world, many businesses have suffered due to restrictions put in place to protect the public. A couple of Atlanta-based entrepreneurs have expressed how the virus has affected their business.

Mychel Snoop Dillard, owner of Escobar Lounge, Crave Restaurant, Members Only Lounge and Remedy Salon Suites

As a serial entrepreneur of five businesses in the Atlanta area, COVID-19 has affected a lot. I would have never thought that I wouldn’t be happy to own four restaurants.  However, due to the closing of dine-in services, I have seen a significant decrease in revenue by 80 percent and my income has been reduced to zero dollars.  I have also made the decision to close my salon suites, Remedy Salon Suites, to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  As the owner and CEO of these businesses, it’s been a difficult task to keep my own spirits up with a positive attitude. But I must remain to be a positive leader for my staff, as they look to me for help, guidance, and answers.

I think this time will be hard, but we are all going through it together.  It challenges us to think about how we grow personally during this time as well as create recession proof sources of income – if they are any. Personally, I’m taking time to work on fitness goals and monetize my business consultations through webinars.  I also continue to communicate with my followers and fan base through social media and give them daily motivational messages and stock tips to take advantage of the market while the DOW is down.

U.S. citizens have been challenged with a new way of living, but maybe it will be better for us in the future?  I think people will definitely be cleaner, wash their hands more and follow stricter sanitary guidelines.  We have already tightened up on things in the kitchens of my restaurants, because of COVID-19.  With that being said, maybe all the effects of the coronavirus won’t be negative.  Going forward, our business model will include a larger focus on our delivery services.  We have to prepare for something like this to possibly happen again.

Dennis McKinley, owner of The Original Hot Dog Factory and CRU Hookah Lounge

These are truly unprecedented times. Dine-in business is done, so business is, of course, overall down. However, morale is not as we are seeing an unbelievable surge in carryout and delivery service business, which we expect to continue

There’s no better time to build a brand than it is now. Post COVID-19, I think the restaurant industry will be in a much better position, as it relates to being clean, taking safety precautions as it relates to employees’ health and setting new standards for a healthy work/customer relationship.

Currently, The Original Hot Dog Factory offers free food to police officers, firefighters and medical workers.

Pinky Cole, owner of Slutty Vegan and The Pinky Cole Foundation

As a risk management tactic, we closed our operations entirely. Initially, we allowed takeout and delivery, but our restaurant was still having a huge turnout. So we had to do the right thing and close the location altogether. Social responsibility is a part of Slutty Vegan’s DNA and foundation. Even though we initially closed, I was still to continue paying my employees. We have now reopened and are serving customers through UberEATS.

Since the Slutty Vegan has gained so much notoriety, we are using our platform to do a bunch of good during this time. Through the Pinky Cole Foundation, we’ve paid rent for other small businesses in Atlanta, paid for college students to return home for COVID-19, provided free food to hospital workers and assisted living families, and have launched an Entrepreneurs Anonymous Digital initiative to help businesses hit hard by this pandemic.

Aside from the restaurant, a lot of people were still purchasing our merchandise and products (such as vegan bacon), so we were still making money as an entity.

As far as setbacks, we have two additional Atlanta locations (Edgewood and Jonesboro)  that were supposed to be opening during the second quarter of the year. These are postponed.

We were also in the middle of a 50-city “Slutty Vegan/Gettin’ Slutty” tour, which is a series for one-day pop-ups in cities such as Charlotte, Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and more. This has been put on hold.

Willie Griggie, co-founder of Hattie Marie’s Texas Style BBQ & Cajun Kitchen

Through our curbside and delivery services, we’ve able to sustain as an operation. But, a lot of people like to experience the environment of our restaurant, which is no longer happening due to both government restrictions and social distancing. Obviously, our online orders have, of course, increased – but many people look at us as a destination spot.

Tons of our visitors are travelers from other parts of the country and world. Travel has been at a standstill, so that component has been lost, which is disappointing.

So far, we have not laid off any employees but we’ve had to cut hours. Many of them work in dining (and preparing/cleaning stations) and we’ve had to scale back.

We were on track to open three new franchise locations in Atlanta (Duluth, Stockbridge and Decatur) by summer 2020. These plans have been on hold until things pick back up.

Kel Chavis and Ty Johnston-Chavis, co-owners of Kelz Kitchen

We have definitely experienced a dip in our frequent customers due to COVID-19. Many of our customers include city/federal workers — with us being located in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

The good thing is that we were already known as a quick-service restaurant, with our tagline being “fine food in a to-go box.” Even though our customers are used to grab and go with us, the mandate is changing daily.

We’ve had to cut hours and staff because of the changes that the city has demanded, so our employees who are still working believe in being on the front line for feeding good food to the community.

Ebony Austin, owner of Nouveau Bar & Grill

As a new restaurant, we were growing rapidly, this led to new hires in every area: bar, kitchen, servers, janitorial, marketing, etc. The word about Nouveau Bar & Grill had spread and we were bombarded with reservation requests, parties, and inquiries about renting out the entire restaurant. Then, COVID-19 took over.

COVID-19 has caused us to refund deposits, cancel reservations, cancel comedy shows, and private events.  In the last month of February, Nouveau saw a profit increase of 29 percent from January. March had a great start; our calendar was full. We were projecting 20 percent growth over February.

Our brunch and liquor sales powered us and had a strong following. We first recognized the true power of COVID-19 on a brunch the weekend of March 14. Our normal profit was reduced by 43 percent and we had seven canceled reservations. The normal foot traffic drastically dwindled.

The next week, we cut our staff as we anticipated a slow turnout word started to spread about the seriousness of COVID-19 seriously. We tried to keep staff on but we were taking a financial beating at the time. We made the decision to have only three people on staff with reduced hours (when our normal rotation is a staff of 12-18 in a day with full hours). We had to temporarily close the doors of Nouveau as we were continuously hemorrhaging money (lease, utilities, etc). The loss of perishable goods was easily in the thousands of dollars.

Our future looked bright. We were planning and had reservations booked into May. The biggest thing that COVID-19 ruined was the planning and opening of our outside/rooftop area. The public was extremely excited about its opening and our expectations for the space were extremely high.

Originally slated for a middle May opening, demand had us pushing it up to mid-April – which would have allowed more seating, more event space, and the option for fine dining with an outside ambiance. This would have led to an enormous boost in profit, but COVID-19 has placed that on an indefinite hold.

Taking in the devastation of COVID-19 can’t even be fully measured at this point!  How will the restaurant recover? Will the public have disposable income to spend at restaurants? The blood, sweat, and tears that went into building Nouveau to this point we were at can bear no price tag. Devastation is defined as great destruction or damage; well the new synonym should be COVID-19 because the financial destruction and damage it caused to Nouveau and our nation as a whole is truly unbearable.

We are slated to re-open on April 14.

Kel Chavis and Ty Johnston-Chavis, co-owners of Kelz Kitchen (Photo Credit: Mainstreet Hub)
Kel Chavis and Ty Johnston-Chavis, co-owners of Kelz Kitchen (Photo Credit: Mainstreet Hub)

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