The last month of 2020 saw things moving in reverse, economically speaking, and that was especially true when it came to the food and beverage industry.
The steady job gains that had allowed the United States to crawl its way out of the pit that began back in March, when the country saw more than 20 million job losses, came to a stop.
Not just came to a stop, but went backwards.
Overall, the country lost more than 140,000 jobs in December, compared to a net gain of 245,000 jobs in November and a net gain of 610,00 jobs in October.
A big factor in those losses was the sudden dip in restaurant industry jobs.
Food service and drinking places lost 372,000 positions in the month of December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — enough to offset gains in other industries like home construction and health care.
Here in Greenville, many restaurants have begun adapting their service offerings to accommodate for a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the county.
Sidewall Pizza, which has been operating locally for six years, just announced it would be moving to takeout only at all locations — at least for the time being.
“The past 10 months have rocked our world, as a company, as individuals, and as a community,” said owners Andy O’Mara and Loren Frant. “Changing our service to takeout-only is the best way to do an awesome job for you right now.”
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Restaurant Week, which runs from Jan. 7-17, also offered takeout options for the first time.
“Although this hasn’t been standard in the past, we feel under current circumstances it will the best way for everyone to be able to celebrate,” event organizers said in a statement.
Some eateries have opted to close down altogether or opt for on-the-fly closures that occur depending upon COVID caseloads. Most notably, all Table 301 location were shut down for the first week of the year.
“We felt a responsibility to this community to do what we know is right, to do our part to help stop this spread and encourage people to stay home,” said Table 301 founder Carl Sobocinski. “This wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s one we made before Christmas as we’d been hearing about the rise in cases and predictions for the aftermath of the holiday season.”
Even smaller restaurants, like Bar Margaret in the West End, which have fewer resources to weather long-term closures, are making new considerations as COVID cases rise.
“We’ve been ambivalent about reopening this weekend,” the owners said last week over social media.
Still, Sobocinski said despite the hardship closures cause, he encourages more restaurant owners to reconsider their service offerings into the winter.
“I hope others will follow suit,” he said. “It’s not always the easy decision or the best financial one, but morally we felt this was the right thing to do.”