Skip navigation

Restaurant operators share stories from the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and the racial justice movement

First-hand accounts detail what it really looks like to lead a business in times of crisis

The last few months have been an exercise in transformation for restaurants. Business models have been completely overhauled. Teams have been redeployed and, in many cases, reduced in size. Menus and supply chains have been reimagined. Working practices and leadership at all levels has been re-examined.

Behind all of these changes are people: Business leaders making difficult decisions to help their companies survive, employees showing up to work day after day, and vendors and partners using their resources to help in new ways.

In this report, we highlight the human moments behind these business moves. NRN reached out to foodservice professionals throughout the industry about what they’ve seen and how their teams have adapted in the face of unprecedented challenges, during the multiple crises that have plagued the U.S. since the beginning of the year. We’re documenting those dispatches here and adding more every week.

Some shared passionate first-person essays in their own words. Others spoke with our editors, who relay their stories here. The result is a look at the complex emotions and difficult decisions facing restaurant professionals today.

These men and women talked about closing restaurants, changing decades-old names and practices, cutting salaries and furloughing employees. They walked us through exactly how they built their crisis management plans, and how they are protecting their workers and their customers. They shared feelings of helplessness, but also moments of hope and heroism.

Here are their stories.

If you have a story you'd like to share, e-mail Holly at [email protected].

Ryan Zink, Bad Daddy's Burger Bar

Laura Rea Dickey, Dickey's Barbecue Pit

GJ Hart, Torchy's Tacos 

Mel Knight, Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Jamie Beall, Ledo Pizza

Barry McGowan, Fogo de Chão

Nick Kenner, Just Salad

Scott Lawton, bartaco

Robert Lee, Coolgreens

John Secretan, Zinc Café & Market

Kevin Lillis, Jaxon 

Todd Graves, Raising Cane's

Justin McCoy, Cousins Subs

James O'Reilly, Smokey Bones

Russ Bendel, Habit Burger

Andrew Gruel, Slapfish

Tony Lamb, Kona Ice

Al Hank, Famous Dave's

Shaun Garcia, Soby's

Aaron Deal, The River and Rail

Taylor Lanzet, Dig

Henry Rich, Oberson Group

Mazen Albatarseh, Cotton Patch Cafe

Frances Allen, Checkers & Rallys

Eric Wyatt, Boston Market

Christine Spect, Cousins Subs

Nick Kokonas, Alinea & Tock

Dan Simpson, Taziki's

Andy Hooper, &pizza

Mario Marovic, Lounge Group

Tony Darden, Mooyah

Jim Holthouser, Focus Brands

Tom Bené, National Restaurant Association

TAGS: Coronavirus
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.