Alabama restaurants continue to feel impacts of the pandemic

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 7:38 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Restaurants have been hit hard since the pandemic started, and the omicron variant packed another punch.

Mindy Hannon, president of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, says restaurant owners continue to feel the pressure.

“We still have restaurants that are closing every week for good. We have a lot of restaurants I’ve seen up in Birmingham that have been open for 25 or 40 years that have just decided, you know, we’ve had enough and we can’t go on,” said Hannon.

A COVID-19 restaurant impact survey conducted in January highlighted the negative impact of the omicron variant on business conditions in our state. The survey showed 92% of restaurants experienced a decline in customer demand for indoor dining in recent weeks as a result of the increase in coronavirus cases. It also showed the actions restaurants were forced to take.

  1. 46% reduced hours of operation on days that it is open.
  2. 27% closed on days that it would normally be open.
  3. 29% reduced seating capacity.
  4. 10% changed to only offering off premises for a period of time.

In the survey, 57% of operators said business conditions for their restaurant are worse now than they were three months ago. Only 4% said business conditions improved during the last three months.

”They’re still recovering from 2020. Many of the restaurants took on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. They lost millions of dollars in sales. So even though right now their restaurants look fine, they’re still struggling because those loans that they got through the SBA, I’m glad they were available, but there’ll be paying it back for the next 30 years,” said Hannon.

Hannon says between a shortage of employees, inflation and supply chain issues, the road to recovery is going to be long.

“Our restaurants still need a lot more help from the government, the restaurant Recovery Fund is still pending in Congress. And we also have ARPA funds here at the state level. And our restaurants and hotels were both economically injured by the pandemic, and they need the rescue funds to help rescue our industry,” said Hannon.

While many restaurants in our state are closing their doors, one Prattville woman is taking on the challenge and opening a new restaurant called Soul Revival Cookhouse, located at 1524 South Memorial Dr. Over the last several months, Nieves Anderson has been training staff and gearing up to welcome customers.

“It’s super exciting. I’m so overwhelmed, so blessed. We are going to be the only soul food restaurant here in the city of Prattville, so that’s a plus,” said Anderson.

Nieves Anderson found her passion for cooking and baking at the start of the pandemic.
Nieves Anderson found her passion for cooking and baking at the start of the pandemic. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Anderson found her passion for cooking and baking at the start of the pandemic.

“When it started, we were sent home to work from home. And out of boredom, I started cooking and baking. And before I knew it, I had catering gigs after catering gigs. I started doing private dinners,” said Anderson.

Anderson says this journey has not been without challenges.

“We were supposed to open earlier, and because of the new variant that came out, it pushed us back. And with the supply chains, we have had shortage of certain items that we have not been able to put on the menu yet because of that, but we just learned to maneuver around it and figure out different things to do,” said Anderson.

Anderson says she will be the first African American female restaurant owner in Prattville. Soul Revival Cookhouse will be opening on Feb. 28. A ribbon cutting will be held at 9:30 a.m.

Nieves Anderson says Soul Revival will be the only Soul Food Restaurant in Prattville. They...
Nieves Anderson says Soul Revival will be the only Soul Food Restaurant in Prattville. They will open Monday, February 28th. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

“I’m super blessed to be able to inspire women and young entrepreneurs all over the world that may be scared to do this. And I just encourage them to step out on faith. If I can do it, you can do it,” said Anderson.

The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association says this is the industry of opportunity with many hiring right now. The Alabama Community College Systems just announced this month their innovation center, which offers rapid training for those seeking employment in hospitality.

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