Small Restaurants Face Challenge Of Innovating Or Dying During Coronavirus Pandemic

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 1:02pm
Updated: Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 1:35pm

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Chris Bianco
Annika Cline/KJZZ
Chris Bianco at his restaurant Tratto in Phoenix.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s order to protect small businesses from eviction was a welcome move that came after hundreds of businesses around Arizona signed a petition seeking a moratorium as they face an increasingly uncertain future. The governor’s order applied to businesses with fewer than 500 employees — like many of the local bars and restaurants that have been forced to close to dine-in guests.

When they had to shutter, some were faced with what seemed like an impossible situation. There were those who were already equipped to offer takeout and to deliver food and beverages, and those who already devoted a significant portion of their businesses to to-go orders and retail sales.

But many were left to navigate an unfamiliar new reality, or at least, one that simply could not bring in the kind of revenue it takes to keep a kitchen or bar running.

Chef Danielle Leoni, owner of the Breadfruit and Rum Bar, told The Show many independent business owners simply need help if they are ever going to recover.

“We already struggled as small, independent operators. Now, we’re beyond this point of hope," Leoni said. "It’s almost unrealistic to say there is hope. We need help. We need actual assistance. We need mandates. We need the federal government to come in and say, ‘We see you. We have shut you down, and it is beyond your hope or your desire to open.’ We need actual assistance.”

The Show spoke to Lauren Saria, the food, dining and nightlife editor for the Arizona Republic, about why this pandemic has been easier on some restaurants than others.

Some restaurateurs have gotten creative during this pandemic. One of those innovating restaurateurs is Chris Bianco. He is perhaps the best-known name in Phoenix’s food scene. The pizza-maker is the owner of four different restaurants in the area — most famously Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix.

The Show spoke to him about his creative ways to keep his businesses afloat and some of his staff employed. 

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