Restaurants shutter as to-go orders not enough to stay in business

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — At midnight Wednesday, stay-at-home orders for the City of Austin, along with Travis and Williamson counties, went into effect. The orders explain what essential businesses will remain open while the city and counties work to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The orders give restaurants the green light to continue serving food, but only in a to-go option including delivery or curbside pickup.

However, for some restaurants, menus simply don’t translate into takeaway orders. That is the case for Provision — a north Austin restaurant offering a casual approach to high-end, fine dining.

“We just weren’t top of mind for takeout, we weren’t the casual fast place that made sense and frankly, our food didn’t translate as well to go,” said Albert Gonzalez, owner and executive chef for the restaurant. “It was designed to cook, sit and eat immediately — enjoy it while it’s fresh. A lot of our menu items didn’t translate to that so we tried while we could but unfortunately, it was short-lived.”

The restaurant opened in October 2019 and experienced steady growth every month.

“We were expecting a 20% to 30% growth in March,” Gonzalez said.

Following the city’s cancellation of South By Southwest, Gonzalez said the restaurant experienced a 45% drop in sales the first week of March. He said they decided to close the day before St. Patrick’s Day, a day ahead of the city’s announcement to close all dine-in options.

Gonzalez said they opened for to-go, curbside pickup orders starting Wednesday and finally shuttered its doors on Saturday following a slow couple of days of business.

“I don’t think anybody thinks this has been great for them in general,” Gonzalez said. “Some business models have been more easily able to adapt.”

During those few days the restaurant stayed open to fill to-go orders, Gonzalez said they sold at most 20 meals and made no more than $800. For comparison, Gonzalez said the restaurant could make that much money just in the first hour-and-a-half or so during a lunch rush on a Tuesday.

“Again, we’re about the experience and we’re about what you get when you come here and you see that,” Gonzalez said. “I mean we would go days without a single to-go order, it’s not what people thought of us.”

Gonzalez said he had to let go of 34 of his employees. He is working with his former employees and has offered them to come back and take produce home to feed their families.

They have also started a Venmo account to accept donations at @Safe-distance-gratuities for the former employees. Gonzalez also said he is hopeful they will reopen and added he will gladly take back every single employee he had to let go.

Provision is not alone in this move, Roaring Fork at Austin Stonelake is also closed. Those with the restaurants posted a sign at the door stating they would close for 15 days starting March 17.

(Photo: Candy Rodriguez/KXAN)

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