Restaurants struggle amid COVID-19 pandemic


When Wisconsin restaurants were forced to close their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many began to feel the impact right away.

“You have to remember when they closed the dining rooms, that reduced sales for restaurants between roughly 75% and 95% for most restaurants,” said Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer. “Pre-COVID on average a restaurant’s profit margin is roughly 3 to 5%. For every dollar that went into the restaurant roughly 95 to 97 cents were already spoken for.”

And even with restaurants now allowed to open in a larger capacity, owners say the revenue is not what it was before the pandemic.

“Our fixed cost is still the same, our mortgage is still the same, our insurance is still the same, our property taxes will still be the same no matter what our volume is,” said owner of Draganetti’s and Za 51 Joanne Palzkill.

“We’re still down for the year, but having people come in and actually sit down and relax and enjoy a few drinks has made a world of difference in our sales,” said Westside Bar and Grill owner Sandra Blake.

They say opening for dine-in services for the first time in more than two months has also presented a new set of challenges.

“Most of us are having trouble with staffing,” Palzkill said. “If the switch flipped on right now and it was like, OK go ahead go back to where we were last year in June, I don’t think we could do it because we don’t have access to that level of staffing anymore.”

“You’re also seeing some higher supply prices and some shortage on some of those products and so the pressure is enormous,” Hillmer said.

And extra cleaning is also taking a toll on finances.

“The purchasing of the sanitation chemicals skyrocketed which will increase the cost of goods,” Blake said.

Which may lead to prices being too high for the consumer.

“I like a good deal like anyone else and if the prices go up too much in a restaurant, then it is very competitive out there and people might stop going to restaurants or may not go as often,” Said Hillmer.

But Blake says even with all the new challenges, they are still optimistic.

“As long as we’re able to stay open and we’re not shut down again, things will be OK,” said Blake.

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