SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- While many Savannah restaurants are relieved to re-open their doors, the transition does come with complications.
“There is no restuarant in the world that was designed for this style of occupancy levels,” said Anthony Debreceny, owner of Collins Quarter, Collins Quarter at Forsyth, The Fitzroy, and The Deck.
Despite serious constraints restaurant owners like Debreceny are trying to make it work. Ideally they would only be using 30% of their sales to cover labor costs, since reopening it’s more than double that.
“That’s a significant financial stress that you know it’s day-by-day,” said Debreceny, “if you think about it too much you’ll send yourself crazy so we have try to make what works, work well.”
The Australian native closed all four of his restuarants during the COVID-19 shutdown. He said a majority of his staff can still collect unemployment benefits, but only if they’re working part time.
In order to maintain those benefits employees can only work $300 worth of hours a week.
“If we bring them back full time they’ll only be earning betweent $680 to $750 dollars, working 40 hours a week,” said Debreceny, “or they can sit on their couch and earn $965 dollars week.”
Restaurants need operating capitol, which comes from cash flow. Debreceny said not enough money is coming in, leaving him no choice but to close five days out of the week
“I know some restaurant owners that have sold their house to be able to get them through this period just because there isn’t a bank in the world currently that would loan to a restaurant,” said Debreceny. “It’s a difficult period and we’ve all got to think of alternative ways of making it through it.”
To weather the storm Debreceny is offering membership packages that give customers access to VIP perks, giftcards, and special discounts. Customers have the choice between three packages ranging from $250 to $1000. He said this additional cash flow will help them survive until hotel occupancy numbers return back to normal.
Debreceny also owns the Fitzroy, which he plans to keep closed until next year. He said it might take several months to a year for his other locations to resume regular operations.