The Biggest Challenges Robert Irvine Predicts Restaurant Owners Will Face Post-COVID

As a chef, entrepreneur, and host of Food Network's "Restaurant: Impossible", Robert Irvine has an inside track on what it would take to turn a failing business around and give it the oomph it needs to have another chance at success. That knowledge will come in especially handy as vaccinations and a dramatic drop in coronavirus cases means that restaurants — which were frozen in their tracks because of the pandemic — are now finally able to come back to life.

In a video shared on Food Network's Twitter, Irvine talks about what it would take for a restaurant to come back from COVID-19 limbo — and he admits the challenges are formidable. "Just getting consumer confidence back, keeping ahead of the game, updating their restaurants ... we haven't been to restaurants for fourteen months; now all of a sudden the floodgates are going to open. You'd [restaurant owners] better be ready. New paint, new paper, new menus, making the place look great, keeping it safe," he said.

The food and beverage sector was hardest hit by the pandemic

Of all the sectors battered by the coronavirus pandemic, the food and beverage industry was hit the hardest. One in four of all jobs lost in 2020 were in that sector, as restaurants closed and kitchens scaled back. Some, like Kentucky restaurateur Edward Lee, told Bon Appétit last year that, "We have meal kits; we're getting heaters. But at the end of the day, I'm on the Titanic, trying to throw out buckets of water to stay afloat. It's the fluctuations that really hurt us. We rely on predictability for staffing, for inventory. Now we don't have a clue."

Today, some cities like New York are looking to find ways to make COVID-19-related adjustments like outdoor dining more permanent. As city official Henry Gutman, who manages its Open Restaurant initiatives, tells The New York Times, while outdoor dining started as a response to the pandemic, it turns out that New Yorkers quite like the experience. Restaurants are also likely to push for more takeout or delivery, along with the increased use of online and mobile ordering and payment methods and platforms.

Robert Irvine had words of encouragement to share with those looking to get back on their feet: "...I know there's a lot of you, please try and hang on. There's help around the corner. There are ways to sustain yourself. Let's get over this hump together" (via Twitter).