As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise across Northeast Florida, local Jacksonville restaurants are trying to stay afloat amid a more than half-year long lull.
“You take it day-by-day. It’s not like you can make a plan,” said George Triantafillopoulos, the owner of the Athenian Owl, a Greek restaurant in Baymeadows.
Triantafillopoulos has owned the Athenian Owl for two-and-a-half years. He said the outlook on the restaurant coming into the year was very promising, but now he only has around 65% of the sales volume he had pre-pandemic.
The restaurant has instilled a number of COVID-19 safety measures, such as extra spacing along with more disinfecting and sanitizing of tables once customers leave.
Triantafillopoulos says business days are hit-and-miss. “You cannot prepare. You can have a very busy Monday night, and you can have a slow Friday. It's a roller coaster right now,” he said.
The Athenian Owl is just down the street from Florida State College at Jackosnville’s Deerwood Campus. The school, along with the surrounding offices, provided a solid customer base before FSCJ decided to go
primarily online in March.
“We have lost a lot of professors and teachers coming in, especially for lunchtime,” Triantafillopoulos said. “We still get one or two, but yes, most people it has affected, [and] we have lost the customers.”
The Athenian Owl took another hit when the Phase 3 reopening plan lifted capacity limitations, which Triantafillopoulos said caused people to cancel their reservations.
While the customer flow has gone down, the price of operations for the restaurant have risen. Import prices from Greece, where the Athenian Owl gets many of its ingredients, are up by as much as 15%.
Even with his struggles, Triantafillopoulos is grateful his restaurant is still open.
“I have three people, three friends [that] have closed their restaurants permanently... we'll see how it goes,” he said.
The Athenian Owl is just one of many restaurants dealing with the struggles of the pandemic. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) reported in September that 100,000 restaurants have closed due to the pandemic in six months. The organization also reported $165 billion in restaurant revenue loss from March to July, and three million restaurant workers are out of work.
The association sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, as well as the White House, to ask government leaders for more relief funding.
Meanwhile, some chain restaurants are feeling the opposite effect. The Wall Street Journal reports that several large corporations, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Domino’s Pizza, are boomong and opening new store locations.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.