Small Fil-Am businesses in New York struggle amidst lockdown

FILIPINO restaurants in New York are feeling the pinch as the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic forced them to drastically cut their operations, doing away with dine-in and focusing only on pick up, to go or delivery.

Restaurants in the city are among the particularly hard-hit and the restrictions made by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut earlier this week compound this hardship.

Chef owners have resorted to various strategies in order to survive.

For a couple of days this week, Aris Tuazon of Ugly Kitchen announced that his team will be accepting orders for lunch delivery to midtown and upper Manhattan. Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao is selling their $100 gift cards for 25 percent off.

It has even come to the point where some of the owners have resorted to fundraising through sites such as GoFundMe in order to support their employees.

Among the restaurants who have set their online fundraisers are Tsismis NYC and Jeepney.

Geena Rocero, a friend of Jeepney’s Nicole Ponseca announced on Instagram that she will be cooking chicken adobo in the restaurant on Thursday evening for their IG live fundraising to benefit the restaurant’s Employee Relief Fund. They will also be selling gift cards and merchandise like t-shirts.

“As many of you know @jeepneynyc is Home and an important space for Filipinx Culture that now needs our support,” she posted.

Jappy Afzelius also fast-tracked the release of Tsismis NYC gift cards, which they were planning to launch in June as they celebrate their first anniversary.

“At the current state of the restaurant industry we will need your support in order to bounce back from this global catastrophe,” Afzelius said. “The support of our patrons and the local community will enable us to continue our operation once it’s safe to resume.”


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TSISMIS gift cards are now available! Initially we were planning on releasing this in time for our 1st year anniversary on June 7 but with this crisis looming over us we feel that it’s the ample time to showcase our gift cards. At the current state of the restaurant industry we will need your support in order to bounce back from this global catastrophe. The support of our patrons and the local community will enable us to continue our operation once it’s safe to resume. We are looking forward to hosting you back through our doors soon enough and your purchase of a gift card will ensure our smooth return once safety of our guests and staff is assured. Free Happy Hour drink or appetizer with each purchase of a $50 value. Together as a community we shall re-build and have a brighter future. Please email [email protected] for inquiries… Thank you very much from all of us at @tsismisnyc and @tastecafenyc

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Some of them, like Purple Yam in Brooklyn and Tsismis in the Lower East Side, have decided to close shop until further notice.

The restaurant industry is already projecting a $225 billion sales decline and between five to seven million jobs lost just in the next three months, a Forbes article said.

According to the New York State Labor Department, New York City employed 315,200 workers in the food service and drinking venues in 2018 at an average yearly wage of $31,500.

“I’m normally pretty upbeat but this has been one of the roughest weeks for everybody,” chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson told his followers on Instagram. “I hope we get through this together.”

It’s an industry problem now since everyone is affected.

Even leaders and high-profile chefs have been feeling the burn.

“We are taking the most distasteful medicine we have ever ingested for the purpose of being around when the sun shines again,” said restaurateur Danny Meyer in a video announcing layoffs at his Union Square Hospitality Group.

Among Mayer’s restaurants are considered as Manhattan mainstays such as the Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern. Meyer said that approximately 2,000 workers will be laid off, representing about 80 percent of its total workforce, according to the Eater food blog.

Fellow celebrity chef Tom Colicchio said he had to lay off 300 people at his Crafted Hospitality restaurant group this week.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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