Famed restaurateur Danny Meyer told CNBC on Friday that his establishments won’t be able to reopen immediately after the coronavirus outbreak slows to a point when it’s safe to go out to eat again.
“It’s going to take a good month or so to recruit our teams back and to get them trained before we could serve the way we used to,” said Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group
Meyer’s comments on “Squawk on the Street” come days after his company laid off around 2,000 workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought the American economy to a near halt. The company said it was experiencing nearly a total elimination of revenues.
State governments across the country have issued orders surrounding restaurants and bars, mandating they only serve takeout and delivery in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Meyer, who is donating his salary to a “fund” for the company’s employees, said the decision to layoff workers and allow them to file for unemployment was done for the long-term health of the business.
“If we’re not around because we’re insolvent, what good will we have been to them?” said Meyer, who also founded Shake Shack.
The U.S. government, as part of its multi-phased coronavirus aid packages, is considering ways to allow small businesses to keep workers on their payrolls for the duration of the crisis.
The relief package introduced Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would offer small business loans to any company with less than 500 employees.
The portions of the loan that are used for payroll could be forgiven if companies do not fire workers before June 30. The loans would be capped at either $10 million or the average of monthly payments.
Meyer compared the situation restaurant operators will experience once they get an OK to reopen to a Major League Baseball manager who has to both build their roster and start Spring Training on the same day.
“I’m not complaining about that, I’m just trying to share a dose of reality” about what it will take to restart business, he said.
Meyer said as soon as the company does learn it is safe to employees to return to work, “we’re going to put people to work.”
“We’re going to start by cooking for people in our company,” he added. “We’re going to then start to cook for people in our community.”