The Loss of Taste: How Restaurant Closures During the COVID-19 Pandemic Will Change the NYC Dining Scene Irrevocably


Izabelle Kwan

Izabelle Kwan ’20, is worried that her favorite New York City restaurants may no longer be in business after the Coronavirus pandemic is over.

Food is the backbone of many cultures, including America’s. America’s lack of a singular identity is clear in the variety of restaurants, of which there are over a million. Despite being heavily associated with fast food chains, America’s smaller businesses have made our food culture what it is. They are the reason that New York City is named the dining capital of the world and why so many New Yorkers pursue their food passions. 

Although restaurants are beautiful from afar and certainly delicious, those facts do not undermine how difficult the restaurant business truly is in terms of financial viability during the best of times, in terms of running a successful business and working in a labor intensive field. Working in restaurants as a chef and server is physically exhausting, and sustaining a small business is increasingly difficult. With the federal government regularly helping large Fortune 500 companies with tax breaks , small workplaces like local restaurants are often forgotten about and have to face ever increasing rents and the competition from well-funded restaurant chains on their own. 

Self professed restaurant connoisseur Sona Marukyan ’20, put it best: “You need more than talent and a willingness to succeed in order to do well in New York City. Money and luck are at the forefront of those famous restaurants that you read about in The New York Times. This is so unfortunate, as many restaurants in my community that truly make New York City into a global melting pot cannot last very long.”

This has only become more true in the era of the 0Coronavirus pandemic. 

As with most things, the restaurant industry is far from immune to the effects of COVID-19. Small businesses in the restaurant industry are already facing devastating financial impacts due to the pandemic.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, restaurants have been forced to switch their business model to making deliveries only or to temporarily close down. Not only have thousands of New York City restaurant employees been laid off during the period of March to May 2020, but many restaurants have had to close down permanently as they could no longer afford their rent and certain fixed costs, such as food and employee wages,  when their income has decreased considerably . There were certain financial aid packages issued to small businesses due to governmental emergency aid, but often enough, these have not been enough in order to keep restaurants afloat. Even with the little money restaurants that do make off of deliveries, they are not making enough on a day-to-day basis to stay afloat. Often, large delivery companies, such as ‘Postmates,’ take a large percentage off of restaurant’s fees. This i not to mention that currently, more people are eating home cooked meals out of financial necessity. 

Like many Bronx Science students, Izabelle Kwan ’20 has used this time of quarantine as a means of honing her her cooking skills. “I have made so many different variations of instant ramen during this quarantine. While the ramen is delicious, I certainly miss eating out at restaurants, and I cannot imagine the damage that is happening right now to the industry,” Kwan said.

The depressing reality is that many of those restaurants, especially the small local ones that we miss eating out at will not be there by the time that the Coronavirus pandemic has run its course. Financially, many will not be strong enough to outlast the pandemic. 

This has more serious consequences than just decreasing our food choices when going out. Bigger chains will have the resources to take individual restaurants’ place, making it even harder for small businesses to start up again. The idea that you can start a restaurant and achieve the American Dream will end up a mirage. 

New York City and so many other places will lose some of their foodie culture, which truly is a part of each city’s identity. No longer can cities be a melting pot in their figurative meaning. There is no certainty that restaurants will ever be able to go back to normal in the years ahead, which is just another reason why we need serious reform in the restaurant industry and with rent laws.

When the government safeguards large corporations from paying taxes, they  prop up the financially stable, and subsequently this takes away from the financially unstable.

The Coronavirus pandemic has only made the fact that rich corporations run this country more clear;  we need to come together (even if it is only digitally, for now) in order to organize locally, allowing us to put an end to this crisis through a change in local governmental policies. 

 “You need more than talent and a willingness to succeed in order to do well in New York City. Money and luck are at the forefront of those famous restaurants that you read about in The New York Times,” said Sona Marukyan ’20.