2020 has been a challenging year for nearly all businesses in the U.S. However, restaurants – specifically family-owned establishments – may have taken the largest brunt of the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19. For many restaurants, the pandemic may be the tipping point for closing the doors for good.
Josh Garcia is a third-generation owner of his family’s restaurant, Miracle Mile Delicatessen in Phoenix. Founded by Garcia’s grandfather, Jack Grodzinsky in 1949, the restaurant prides itself on being an integral part of the community, treating customers like family and serving the best pastrami sandwiches in the Southwest.
However, coronavirus forced Miracle Mile to temporarily close its dining room for the first time in the deli’s 71-year history. The restaurant had to quickly pivot and adapt to a takeout-only model for a significant period of time.
“There have been a lot of ‘firsts’ for our business over the last seven months,” said Garcia. “No prior experience would have helped with the level of adversity we’ve endured and the amount of flexibility we’ve had to muster during 2020.”
Almost overnight, Garcia and his family had to modify the way they had been doing business at Miracle Mile for more than seven decades. From ensuring the staff understood the stringent Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines during a global pandemic to making sure employees and customers felt safe about using the take-out services and eventually returning to the restaurant, Garcia and his team had their work cut out for them.
“As a family, our communications skills have been put to the test,” said Garcia. “We’ve had to be in constant contact, discussing our options and business needs, as well as deciding how we are going to continue to battle through these tough times. Our ultimate goal is to ensure our family business is doing whatever it takes for survival.”
The impact of small businesses resonates throughout a community. Research shows for every dollar spent with a small business, 67 cents stays in the local economy with roughly 44 cents going to the small business owners’ costs like employee wages and benefits. Additionally, studies have shown that small business owners reinvest 23 cents for each dollar earned into other local businesses.
“What people may not understand about being a restaurateur is that the job never ends,” said Garcia. “Small business owners pour their heart and soul into making their business successful every day and taking care of their people. Regardless of the industry, business ownership requires perseverance, optimism, patience, creativity, and literal blood, sweat and tears.”
For many entrepreneurs, the months ahead could prove challenging. Most small businesses are not thriving right now, they are merely surviving and the future remains uncertain.
“Enduring the pandemic is our primary goal and obviously we rely on the community’s support in order to keep our doors open and our lights on,” added Garcia. “I don’t think any of us could have imagined that seven months later we’d still be in this position, but here we are.”
“Right now, I am trying to focus on the things we can control, be grateful for the present and concentrate on one day at a time. Miracle Mile has persevered in the past and we will survive this, too.”