Over the past several weeks, America has been hit with some of the worst hurricanes in history. In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other areas, some restaurants have been forced to close temporarily due to the weather. This week, New Orleans prepares for more extreme weather as Hurricane Nate approaches.
Across the country, restaurateurs are working together to minimize the physical and financial damage caused by these storms. Where there’s a will, there’s a way: and small business owners have great willpower in every kind of weather. Let’s take a look at how this hurricane season has impacted restaurants across the nation – and how our industry is coming together to help.
Restaurants Hit Hard
Many small businesses – not just in the food industry – struggle to reopen after weathering a natural disaster. Even beloved, successful restaurants, such as the Spaghetti Warehouse in Houston, TX, face unprecedented expenses due to the recent storms. Momi Ramen, a restaurant in Miami, FL, went at least 11 days without power after Hurricane Irma. Despite minimal damage to the building, the cost of food spoilage and lost revenue constituted a major financial setback.
Major chains have a slight advantage when it comes to recovery, because they have more infrastructure to prepare for disasters ahead of time. As of October 9th, over 75% of Burger King’s 187 locations in Puerto Rico had reopened to the public, since closing due to damage from Hurricane Maria. The restaurant is not only serving food; they’re also inviting guests to leave notes letting loved ones know they’re ok. BK publishes these notes on its Facebook page, alerting fans across the world when someone is marked as safe. The corporation has also donated meals to recovery crews and the Red Cross.
Relief & Recovery
As award-winning journalist Danny Klein writes, “Restaurants have taken a leading role in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.” Chains like Hooters have pledged matching donations to hurricane relief, encouraging guests to round up their checks and send funds to those in need. Burger chain Whataburger donated over $1 million outright, even before asking customers to contribute.
These generous donations aren’t just coming from huge companies. Small businesses across America continue to host fundraisers for hurricane relief. Even restaurants that were directly impacted by the storms are finding ways to give back to their communities. Urban Bricks Pizza, for example, gave away over 700 pizzas to locals impacted by the storms. Sammy Aldeeb, founder and CEO of the restaurant, was originally worried about staffing this effort – but so many employees volunteered to work for free, that they “actually had to turn people away.”
Despite the damage of the storms, there is a ray of hope. Restaurants like Urban Bricks show us that people will always come together for good food and good company – even in times of strife.
Ready for Anything
No matter where your restaurant is located, there are ways you can prepare for natural disasters. Some regions are more impacted by hurricanes; Northern California is currently battling several wildfires, and other regions have their own unique concerns.
As Scott Teel, senior director of communications for Agility Recovery Solutions, told CNBC: “Your recovery is dependent on what happened prior to the incident.” Invest in a backup generator and a long-term storage solution to prevent food storage. Let your employees know what to expect if you need to close temporarily: will you pay their regular salaries? Will they be expected to help with recovery? Make sure your team is properly trained to get your business up and running again as quickly as possible.
The food industry isn’t just about making money; it’s also about taking care of people. With a little time, attention, and preparation, your restaurant can weather anything that comes your way. Even if your region is hit by a major storm, you can find ways to engage with your community, and build up your customer base in the process.