Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, has announced that his restaurants will remain closed to guests indefinitely as a result of the crushing blow dealt by the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality industry.
“We won’t be welcoming guests into our full-service restaurants for a very long time—probably not until there’s a vaccine,” he told Bloomberg. “There is no interest or excitement on my part to having a half-full dining room while everyone is getting their temperature taken and wearing masks, for not much money.”
The New York entrepreneur and hospitality guru shuttered all 19 of the Union Square Hospitality concepts, including some of New York’s most loved restaurants, like Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, on March 13 out of health and safety concerns generated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Well known for his entrepreneurial ideas, including removing tipping in 2015, Meyer is already pivoting in other areas of the business, and encouraging his chefs and managers to use their initiative to do the same.
Already, there are plans afoot to start shipping a signature dish from each restaurant across the country via gourmet delivery service Goldbelly. Daily Provisions is pivoting into breakfast curbside pick up, and Marta in the Flatiron District is pivoting to pizza take-out. Meanwhile, Mike Anthony, the chef at Gramercy Tavern, is thinking about doing a farmers market meal kit.
In a world where restaurants may only be able to operate at 50% to comply with social distancing measures, Meyer goes on to say: “I would think about anything that is safe and profitable. If it’s not safe, we won’t do it, we all lose. Profitable matters, as well. The only way we can responsibly get back in the business of employing people is to not go out of business. It’s already incredibly hard to survive.”
It's not all doom and gloom, though. Meyer is hopeful that he will re-open most of his restaurants, even if they will look very different. The Union Square Café, for example, might have a reduced number of dishes chalked up on a daily menu as a way of cutting costs by sourcing fewer ingredients.