Just a few weeks ago Daniel Humm was riding high, his Eleven Madison Park restaurant was under his full control and he was remoulding it entirely in his own image. His Davies & Brook restaurant in London’s Claridge’s Hotel had opened to rave reviews. It seemed like nothing could stop the Swiss chef.
Then everything changed - overnight. The chef wrote a piece for Fast Company in which he describes his experience of the Coronavirus lockdown, justifies his decision to layoff all his staff and turn his EMP into a food bank for emergency responders and healthcare workers. He also wonders aloud what future, if any, fine dining has after all of this.
EMP operates on pay for reservation basis, which is a good business model when things are going well, Humm says, but it worked against the business when New York went into lockdown.
“Our industry now hangs on a thread,” Humm tells Fast Company. “At Eleven Madison Park, diners pay for a reservation, which is a great business model when everything is going well because you’ve got all the money a month out. But that meant that the first week we closed, we started getting calls from people asking for their money back, and we lost millions of dollars. That’s when I started to realize it was really, really bad.”
Even the highest of high-end restaurants aren’t immune from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, with many holding out hope that their insurers will cover business interruption costs. Very few restaurants are able to keep their staff on the payroll and Humm is no exception.
“At first I thought we could keep the core team and rehire the rest [of the staff] later. But looking at the numbers, I realized there was no way we could keep this payroll going when we had no money coming in. We ended up furloughing a few people — and then about 10 days in, we made the decision to let everyone go.”