Adolfo Garcia is a New Orleans chef and restaurateur with many successful restaurants under his belt including La Boca Steakhouse, High Hat Cafe and Ancora Pizzeria. With over four decades of experience in the restaurant industry, he shares with us some of his thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted himself, his businesses and his employees.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your businesses?
Being focused mainly in the restaurant business the mandated closures has put me in a position where two of the three restaurants completely closed and one went down to take out only. That involved laying off 30+ employees and watching revenues dwindle by approx 80% overall.
What changes have your businesses had to make to adapt to quarantine?
The higher end restaurant La Boca closed immediately and completely due to the unlikely event that people would be willing to spend on the higher end of the spectrum for food to be picked up. The pizza restaurant, Ancora opened briefly after the closure but due to employee safety concerns and uncertainty we decided to close after a brief stint of to-go business. High Hat due to factors related to employees desire to continue work we were able to continue serving with 6 key employees and have continued to do so somewhat sustainably.
Were there any resources or advice you gave your employees to help them during this time?
Well the obvious resource is unemployment benefits available through the state insurance plan which in itself was a paltry number but as the extra funding from Congress came through it really made a difference in the short term. My best advice to anyone including myself and my employees is capital preservation.. Don’t spend, don’t pay anyone you can hold off on and negotiate with any debts or payments coming up.
What advice would you give to other business owners specifically in New Orleans about how to restart business when quarantine is over?
We’ve been through some hard times before but this is unprecedented in that this is not a regional or local issue so I believe the turnaround period will be much longer than say Katrina therefore the strategy for coming back will be more arduous and extreme. Preserve cash, find a way to find a sustainable number based on fixed costs and projected sales.
Though this is a tough time, what has inspired optimism for you and your businesses moving forward?
The business I am in depends greatly on our first asset which is our employees and also our reputation and experience. I have a great core group of employees and partners that I know are invested in our continued operation. Also, our reputation as a purveyor of high quality food, a first class dining experience and creating a strong bond with our guests, is one of our most valuable assets moving forward. The 40+ years in the business is something that will help us move forward in this challenging environment . I also believe New Orleans is a unique place with a cultural history and sense of place not common in the US. We will always be unique and I think it will help us in the long term in our effort to return.