Coronavirus looms over ETX restaurants, slowing business

As Covid-19 continues to spread, many restaurants in East Texas are feeling the immediate impact.
As Covid-19 continues to spread, many restaurants in East Texas are feeling the immediate impact.(Brunos Pizza & Pasta)
Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 9:17 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As Covid-19 continues to spread, many restaurants in East Texas are feeling the immediate impact, we talked with a local business and their employees to see what challenges could be ahead.

Earlier this week President Trump and the CDC announced that people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and avoid bars and restaurants. For our local East Texas community the announcement is already impacting the food service industry including servers who are facing major challenges.

“Honestly right now is a day by day customer by customer deal to me,” said Roy Austin, Server.
Roy is a longtime employee at the family owned business Bruno’s Pizza and Pasta that is Tyler staple and has been around for 44 years.

Austin says he relies heavily on foot traffic and tips because he has three kids and a wife to support.
“This is 100% of my income man. I mean like you say people don’t show up. If they don’t eat my kids likely don’t eat. It’s as simple as that,” said Austin.

As the outbreaks continues to spread business is slow and seats are nearly empty and so are other restaurants in the area. “I’m used to seeing a packed restaurant. I’m used to seeing, like you look around, I’m used to seeing these tables full by this time of day,” said Austin.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the economic impact the Coronavirus will have on the restaurant business, which is a $50 billion dollar industry, will be exponential. ”If it continues like it is the economy is going to go crazy and we can’t afford that. I mean it would take a lot to rebuild and get back up." said Lori Rumbelow, Co-Owner of Bruno’s Pizza and Pasta.

Rumbelow said she has around 60 employees counting on a paycheck.“This is what their living is and they’re worried about their family so it’s just a big circle of what are we supposed to do?” said Rumbelow.

While Rumbelow agrees it’s important to take preventative measures in protecting the public and her customers, she says it comes at a cost.“We can withstand some, but for 3,4,5,6 more weeks I don’t know what people are going to do,” said Rumbelow.

Right now, management says they are staying vigilant against the virus by spraying down counters and door handles in addition to repeatedly washing hands.“We’ve been taking precautions for the last couple of weeks steps just above you know. But I’ve never seen in 30 years someone steal toilet paper and Lysol out of my bathrooms,” said Rumbelow.

That’s why Rumbelow is pleading to the public to support family owned and local businesses as they face an uncertain future. “You don’t have to come in for 45 minutes and visit. Come in have a hot meal, get out of the house for a minute, wash your hands, eat your meal then you can leave,” said Rumbelow.

While the virus continues to affect the family owned business, the restaurant is increasing takeout orders. President trump and the CDC’s latest update says this is safe to do.“We haven’t been in business this long to give up or give up on our employees or anything like that. We’ll figure a way. If it means people want something delivered to them and that’s the only way, we can do it for a while then we’ll figure out a way,” said Rumbelow.

We also talked with mama’s restaurant in Tyler. Management says they are losing $10,000 a week in sales amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

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