2020, what a year. It has brought with it what seems like a never ending onslaught of challenges to overcome. These challenges are leaving no person unchanged, some for the better, but many for the worse. The small business community has been seemingly almost targeted by these many challenges and the Restaurant industry could at this point be considered the hardest hit. An industry that is already a tough one to survive in any conditions, has now been made increasingly challenging. First through the mandatory closures we saw in the 2nd quarter of 2020, to limits placed on how restaurants could operate, how many they could allow inside their business, fines for non - compliance, and the list goes on and on. Owning and operating a restaurant right now seems to be an insurmountable task. Supply chain interruptions have made many products hard to get, and food costs have been at some points so high that it was not possible for restaurants to retain any sort of profit margins to be sustainable.
Saratoga Springs has seen many closures both temporary and permanent including that of area staples such as Ravenous that closed its doors permanently after a successful 21 years in business. We are also seeing many restaurants close their doors temporarily because the limited seating capacity does not offer them enough revenue to justify operating costs. A rough industry just seems to be getting rougher.
To get a closer look into the reality facing restaurant owners, Saratoga Business Report had a chance to catch up with Matt Bagley, one of the owner/operators of Harvey’s Restaurant located on Phila Street in Saratoga Springs. Matt and his business partner Adam have really made Harvey’s a top notch bar & restaurant in the area. Matt, running the front of the house with his gregarious and witty personality, while Adam with his passion for food, has really taken the menu to new heights. So we wanted to know: In a world full of unknowns for business owners, what do you do?
Matt told the SBR that staying safe is their first priority. “We are being more cautious than we are being asked to be”, said Mr. Bagley. He went on to describe a situation where a relative of a staff member had reported as positive so they temporarily closed even though they were not asked to. “We just want to be sure that our staff is safe and that our customers are not only safe, but also confident that we are doing everything we can to give them a safe environment where they can relax in.” Doing this while also keeping a sense of humor as we saw with the whole “Cuomo Chips” situation.
As many have stated in the business community, some sort of pivot for businesses is necessary for them to survive current conditions. As a restaurant a pivot is not always possible. Take out and to go orders, the natural progression, is not necessarily sustainable. Just like a gas station counts on customers coming in the store to purchase additional items - restaurants count on bar patrons ordering food and food patrons ordering drinks.Take out orders only remove the potential for add on business like this. Harvey’s is no different counting on addons to help remain profitable. Also, like many other local restaurants, Harvey’s counts on large parties throughout the year to get them through the slower times. Large parties that are currently non existent due to capacity limits and social distancing. So what do they do?
“Luckily for us Harvey’s is huge, so even limited capacity still leaves us with a large enough seating capacity to maintain business and social distancing rules put in place.”, said Matt. “Adam and I are basically working on contingency plans for every scenario we can think of. Playing the what if game and then formulating plans accordingly. We currently have plan A, B, C, and D.”
When asked if people should be worried about going out to eat, Matt responded: “I base my outlook on what we are doing here at Harvey’s which is practicing an abundance of caution. We are cleaning absolutely everything, wearing masks and following all the guidelines. Based on what we are doing we feel it is safe to go to restaurants. You don’t have to be afraid to go out to eat as long as you wear a mask, listen to the rules, be respectful of them and keep your distance. I think restaurants are going the extra mile in their sanitation efforts because there is no other option. Everyone has to do their part so we can at least try and get back to a semblance of normalcy, I know we are.