The Future of Restaurants and Entertainment Depend on State Testing and Community Support

Key players in the restaurant and entertainment industries discuss the outlook of these sectors as state restrictions lift and businesses reopen.


Air Date: May 14, 2020

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, Director, Washington State COVID-19 Health System Response Management, Rick Roman, Owner, Roman Theater Management, Michael Kaufman, Partner, Astor Group

The entertainment and restaurant industry are two of the hardest-hit industries during COVID-19, with millions of jobs lost in the early months of the pandemic. As entertainment businesses and restaurants reopen, there are questions and concerns as to how they will keep their employees and patrons safe.

In this interview with Suzanne Clark, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, industry experts discuss the safety of the entertainment and restaurant industry as well as the potential impact of state restrictions and reopenings.

States’ Ability to Track and Test the Coronavirus Has a Large Impact on Entertainment and Restaurant Reopenings

COVID-19 can easily go undetected, especially when those infected are asymptomatic. This makes restaurant and entertainment reopenings difficult as states work to find ways to widely test for and detect the virus early.

Vice Admiral Raquel Bono of Washington State’s COVID-19 Health System Response Management noted that contact tracing and upping the ability to test for the virus is the best shot for not overwhelming health care systems and speeding up response times.

When it comes to the entertainment and restaurant industry, tracking customers as they come in through a voluntary log, taking temperatures of employees when they report to work and the continuation of masks and sanitizing methods are a few of the measures Bono believes will stick around in the days ahead.

Employee and Patron Safety Is the Main Concern as Entertainment Businesses Reopen

As more Americans are looking to come out of quarantine, it’s important they feel safe to do so and take precautionary measures to come back to the entertainment industry. Rick Roman, owner of Roman Theater Management, says many movie theaters that have reopened are required to socially distance people who sit in the theater and will stick to basic menus for food and drink.

Continuous disinfection of surfaces, taking employee temperatures, utilizing masks and having a greeter to open the door and relay instructions to patrons are among the measures that will help theaters reduce the spread and allow employees and patrons to feel safe coming to the theater, said Roman.

Michael Kaufman, a partner at Astor Group and former chair of the National Restaurant Association, added that restaurant reservations, socially distanced tables, the frequent cleaning of restrooms and using curbside pickup and delivery are only a few of the ways restaurants will change as they open back up.

“There will be a number of changes that will be visible and some that will be more behind the scene as restaurants likely continue their takeout and delivery,” said Kaufman.

Traditional Theater Entertainment and Virtual Streaming Entertainment Will Support Each Other

Roman noted that while people are watching more movies at home through streaming services, people still crave the experience of the theater — and that’s what will keep them coming in as restrictions lift.

“Although the studios … have put us in competition [with streaming services], we really need to ... realize that people streaming movies at home help the movie theaters and people-watch in theaters movies at the theaters help streaming,” said Roman.

Community Support for Local Establishments is Vital During Restaurant Restrictions

With these industries fighting to stay afloat, community support for local entertainment businesses and restaurants will make the difference in which ones survive. Kaufman suggested that consumers buy gift cards to use at a later date, contribute to their favorite local restaurant’s GoFundMe page and continue patronizing these establishments with contactless pickup and delivery orders while restaurant restrictions are still in place.

Business owners themselves are also giving back through meal assistance and relief funds for communities in need.

“There are an extraordinary number … restaurants cooking for frontline employees, first responders and for those in need,” said Kaufman. “We have these gaps in the supply chain, too, that were serving restaurants that in fact could now serve communities through food banks. Those … are finally being connected. It's something that needs to happen in order to keep people fed and suppliers … in business.”