Jacksonville Seasons 52 Partner: Even Chain Restaurants Are 'Fighting For Our Lives'

Mar 24, 2020

Restaurants around the country are asking Americans to support the industry by joining the "Great American Takeout."

It’s a coordinated social media effort to encourage patrons to order food for pick-up or delivery while dining rooms remain closed in Florida and many other states during the coronavirus pandemic.

Seasons 52 at the St. Johns Town Center is among the many restaurants across the First Coast attempting to make the best of a bad situation with a to-go program.

But unlike the mom-and-pops, Seasons 52 is owned by Darden Restaurant Group, a big national company that also operates chain restaurants in Jacksonville that include Bahama Breeze, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Olive Garden and The Capital Grille.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Local Seasons 52 Managing Partner Oscar Rosado said his restaurant is fortunate to have the resources of a national operation.

“I think we can outlast this thing, but nobody knows where the end is in sight," he said.

Unlike at many smaller operations, hourly employees here and across the Darden company are getting emergency pay.

The Seasons 52 in Jacksonville usually employs about a 100 people, a sizable portion of them are students and people working second jobs.

But right now, just the management team is working on the to-go program.

The menu has been streamlined to provide family meal options. The to-go menu is available from noon to 8 p.m. every day.

While being part of a large company has its advantages, there’s no getting around the fact that Rosado’s chosen professional has a tough road ahead.

“There’s an entire hospitality industry that has been literally decimated, and we are scrapping and fighting for our lives to make sure that there are places for people to come back to work in,” Rosado said.

Darden’s stock has dropped from $112.26 a share at the beginning of the year to $41.03 at Monday’s close.  The company announced last week it was suspending its quarterly dividend and withdrawing its previous full-year financial outlook.

But it also has some reserves.

"With the drawdown of our revolver, and cash on the balance sheet, we will have approximately $1 billion in cash on hand," said CFO Rick Cardenas.  "We believe this positions us well to deal with potential near-term volatility under the current market conditions."

Back in Jacksonville, Rosado said, “All we’re doing as a brand, as a company, is focusing on what we have power over. And that is today – reaching out and serving our communities and making people aware that we are open to serve some family meals,” Rosado said.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.