There’s no denying that we’re in the midst of this global crisis, and local restaurants and businesses have been hit particularly hard. Across the board, restaurant and small business owners alike have been battling dwindling sales and empty establishments due to the coronavirus pandemic that has many people staying away.
Close to home, Yellow Rock Concepts (YRC) restaurants (Big Orange, Heights Taco & Tamale, Local Lime, Lost Forty, and ZAZA) are rightfully concerned about what’s to come and what this means for the future of their eateries. John Beachboard, managing owner at Lost Forty Brewing and a partner at Yellow Rocket Concepts, talks about the unsettling uncertainty of 2020, questioning what everyone should even be believing as far as the elusive “end in sight.” He mentioned in a pained tone that restaurant sales declined by almost 80% in just a week; a devastating blow to the company and for its employees, who rely entirely on dine-in patrons for their wages and tips.
With the entire country beginning to self-isolate this past week, shutting down the restaurants for dine-in was inevitable. For Lost Forty Brewing and other YRC employees, like so many others who work in the hospitality industry, this would be a catastrophic blow to their incomes. But in a truly remarkable move, YRC has committed to paying its employees through this trying time, no matter what. Beachboard notes that according to their protocol no employees are allowed to come into work if they are sick. But, they will still get paid.
“I can’t turn them out onto the street…” he said, emotionally. “I had assumed that most of our staff, 30-something, bulletproof. But I just found out today that two of them are high-risk. It hit me hard to know they’re at risk. And we can’t just leave them stranded.”
Though this decision will jeopardize the financial standing of all Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurants, it was a no-brainer; this act of generosity is simply a part of their DNA, and their 500+ employees will be taken care of during this crisis.
Obviously, YRC restaurants are not the only ones affected, and the Little Rock community must find a way to help supplement the enormous losses faced by business owners. Beachboard says with conviction, “Anything you can do to support local businesses right now, is great. I’m not just trying to save my own hide. Local business is vital … and I’m doing everything I can to … rattle cages for businesses in Arkansas.” Beachboard followed up later with a message, saying that the hospitality industry will likely need some government assistance to stay alive.
Beachboard is correct that local businesses are vital to the economy in Arkansas, and there are things that everyone can do to help them weather the storm. Beachboard half-jokingly mentioned buying Lost Forty beer to support their specific establishments, but more realistically, he urges the public to take advantage of new services like curbside pick up, delivery, and call-in ordering. Beachboard notes that even though carry out options wasn’t initially a part of their regular service model, YRC restaurants are adapting to the new reality and offering new ways to enjoy meals. They are currently in talks with a delivery service to make it accessible to the public.
Other than that, restaurants and other local businesses benefit greatly from gift card purchases. So even if takeout doesn’t sound enticing right now, the public can purchase gift cards for the future to help keep their favorite establishments in business as they plan to navigate the upcoming months.
Although mentally and emotionally exhausted, Beachboard is far from defeated. “All I know how to do is go out and attack a problem and either win or die. I hope it works for me now.” One thing is absolutely certain: the support of the Arkansas community is absolutely essential for everyone’s favorite restaurants and shops to be able to overcome this seemingly insurmountable crisis and make it through to better days.