Many restaurants around the country are confronting the possibly devastating effects of social distancing recommendations, and restaurants in downtown San Francisco are already feeling the pain only a week into this mess.
Bruce Hill, the chef/owner of Bix and Zero Zero, tells the Mercury-News today that business at Zero Zero has been down 70 to 80 percent and he's been telling staff to go home early. "I’m freaked out," he tells the paper, adding that the mezzanine in the restaurant has remained closed all week — and another wrinkle that hasn't been widely mentioned is that Italian restaurants like his that depend on imported products from Italy (San Marzano tomatoes, "zero zero" flour for pizza) are going to have to make due with whatever they can get because "none of that stuff is leaving Italy right now."
Zero Zero has just popped up on Caviar this week as Hill hopes to make up for all the lost revenue, so if you're in the mood for stellar salads, pastas, and wood-fired pizza, you've got a new delivery option — and you should note that Caviar is waving all delivery fees for the next month.
Chef Mourad Lahlou, whose downtown restaurant Mourad has never offered takeout or delivery, is now considering offering both. Lahlou tells Eater that he's actively tweaking some dishes so that they'll travel better ("We’re changing the sauces and the cuts [of meat] so the dish doesn’t die within two or three minutes of it being cooked."), and he's in talks with both DoorDash and Grubhub about beginning delivery.
Grubhub (which also owns Seamless) announced today that it is now waiving commission fees for restaurants in five cities up to $100 million in order to soften the blow of the coronavirus-related downturn.
This week we already saw the abrupt closure of AL's Deli in the Mission, which was partially attributable to the abrupt cancellation of all the restaurant's corporate catering orders. As chef/owner Aaron London gives the Mercury-News a pretty gloomy picture, saying, "A lot of small restaurants don’t have the cushion a large corporation has. A couple of slow nights makes a difference. A couple of slow weeks, and I think it’s very uncertain what’s going to happen to a lot of the small restaurants in the city."
Tellingly, at least for now, Gott's Roadside reports that sales were actually up this week at their Ferry Building location, and they're seeing a huge spike in beer and wine sales — I wonder why?. Gott's president Chris Walker tells the Mercury-News, "We’re in the comfort food business,” Walker says. “And I think people are taking advantage of the summer-like weather and wanting to gather as a community in a high anxiety time."
Expect more and more delivery options to appear in the coming weeks and PLEASE keep patronizing local businesses.