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Coulter: Save our restaurants before it’s too late

By Steve Coulter

A brand new national Yelp survey isn’t very good news for the restaurant industry. Sixty percent of restaurants that shut down because of the pandemic are not coming back. Nearly 16,000 U.S. restaurants have closed permanently.

Local restaurants employ your neighbors, so supporting a nearby restaurant can strengthen the local economy by creating jobs that may not exist if members of the community fail to support small businesses and restaurants.

Every week more owners are throwing in the towel. Recently, Cimarron Steakhouse and Sooner Legends closed.

Steve Coulter, Co-Publisher

“None of us could have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic. We tried to weather the storm but being an independent and family owned business, it was impossible to hold on,” Sooner Legends said in a statement to OU Daily.

I reached out to the Jim Hopper, President of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association and he confirmed all the bad news.

“It’s been very difficult. There are a lot of restaurants really struggling. There will be restaurants that won’t survive. There’s no doubt that it’s had a devastating impact,” he said.

The restaurant industry in Oklahoma and nationwide have lost more revenue and more jobs than any other industry.

“It’s not even close, that’s how bad it’s been. They’re doing everything they can to survive,” said Hopper.

This news makes you really worry about your favorite restaurants. I decided to check in with one of my favorites and the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Oklahoma.

“Cattlemen’s has endured 2 World Wars, The Great Depression and numerous events that has rocked the foundation of our country. The COVID epidemic may have been the most substantial challenge we have met so far. With everyone’s health at stake the damage to the restaurant industry is far greater than many other types of businesses,” said Cattlemen’s Director of Operations David Egan.

Now is the time to think about your favorite restaurants and what you can do to help them. What restaurants would you really miss? How can you help save them before it’s too late?

“Order from your favorite restaurant and pick it up, they’ll bring it out contactless. They’ll bring it to your car. Purchase a gift card, that’s another way you can support restaurants. Anything you can do that helps a restaurant generate revenue so they can pay their employees and get through this. Anything you can do to help them get there is greatly appreciated,” said Hopper.

The Oklahoma Restaurant Association stresses that restaurants are some of the safest indoor places you can visit. They have a lot of practice and training for sanitation.

“Restaurants have had sanitation, cleaning and training protocols in place for years. That’s what they do, they keep people safe. They get inspected by the health department on a regular basis and so they have always done that,” said Hopper.

Cattlemen’s reiterated the steps restaurant’s take to keep the public safe.

“Restaurants have always been the safest, cleanest places to eat. The COVID seems to have challenged that. Except we are now finding that more people are being affected with the virus within their own home and at large family gatherings than eating at restaurants. We continue to adapt severe sanitation precautions to ensure our guests’ experience is safe and worry-free,” said Egan.
Cattlemen’s provided me with a list of strict sanitation and health guidelines they have implemented.

“With these measures in place and with the guidance of our elected officials and health experts, we hope to evolve into an environment which guarantees the guests safety and a stable business climate,” said Egan.

Cattlemen’s says the beef industry has never been as strong as it is now. And the appetite for quality beef is as high now as it’s ever been.

Cattlemen’s like many restaurants are looking forward to moving past the pandemic.

“Luckily, for us, the reopening has gone very well. Our guests have come back strong and have supported us extremely well. We are averaging between 75 – 80% of our normal business level. We look forward to continue to be the beacon of a quality beef steak experience in Oklahoma to having this chapter behind us and to many good years ahead,” said Egan.

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