Restaurants turn to take-out orders to stay afloat

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Amy Ngo

The parking lot at Kin in Mid-City sits empty on March 25 amid concerns of the coronavirus outbreak. Kin, a dine-in ramen restaurant on Washington Ave., was forced to transition to take-out only after stay-at-home mandates were issued city and then statewide.

Amy Ngo

Hieu Than unlocked the doors to a small yellow shotgun style building on Washington Avenue, right off South Jefferson Davis Parkway. Than looked around the empty space at his restaurant, Kin. The dining room chairs were set on the table tops from evenings before, and the bar was spotless— like no one had stepped foot into his restaurant for days. 

“After the no-dine-in mandate, customer volume decreased by more than half,” Than said. 

The restrictions for the public and businesses, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, were first issued by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Sunday, March 15. This was a little less than a week after the first person in Louisiana received a presumptive positive diagnosis for the virus.

“My concern for the coming weeks is that we will see even more drastic loss in business because everyone who has been laid off, or lost their jobs, will likely not order out,” Than said. 

The guidelines restricted “full service restaurants with seating cease operations at 9 p.m. daily,” according to the City of New Orleans website. It also required restaurants remove seating in their dining rooms to accomodate for proper social distancing, which asks people to be six feet apart if they are around each other for more than ten minutes at a time. 

On Monday, March 20, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state-wide stay-at-home mandate. This moved restaurants to take-out and delivery only, event cancelations and postponements, school closures and “nonessential” work being called off state-wide. 

Before this time, Kin didn’t offer take-out or delivery, but Than continues to do what he loves to serve the community the best way he can.

“We haven’t adjusted any prices to cover the costs because I understand it’s tough enough to convince our customers to spend,” Than said. He explained the restaurant won’t be moving to delivery, as he doesn’t want to put a delivery person or his customers at any increased risk of exposure to the virus. 

Than’s biggest concern looking to the next few months is paying his employees. 

We are currently only open for voluntary shifts. We have enough to cover payroll for now, but employees that wish to stay home are encouraged to file for unemployment. We might set-up a Go Fund Me for our staff,” Than said. 

Though Than and his business are suffering, he understands the restrictions in place. He just hopes that the service industry sees some assistance on the back end of the crisis too. 

“I understand these sanctions are necessary for public health, but we are all in this together as an industry and as a city. It’s my hope that because we are dependent on the hospitality revenue here in New Orleans, the recovery efforts will have to prioritize this labor sector,” said Than. 

Currently, Louisiana has 1,388 reported cases of the virus and 46 reported deaths. Public health officials expect this number to continue rising. The stay-at-home order for the state is to last until Monday, April 13, 2020, unless terminated sooner.