Michigan restaurants work to adapt amid closing of indoor dining

Michigan's restaurant industry has already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns to slow the spread. Now they're bracing for more troubles ahead.

On Sunday, restaurants were ordered to halt indoor dining for at least three weeks. Some owners question if they'll survive this shutdown while others are doing their best to adapt.

William Schwab, the manager at Fork N' Pint on Cass Lake said while they're disappointed in the closure, they understand the need.

"We will adapt, we will improvise, and we will overcome this together with our community which we love and respect," Schwab said.

Adamant that they're not defeated, he knows that changes to the menu are likely to make carryout better.

"We're going to make packages friendly and inexpensive for people so they can feed their whole families and we can afford to get through this together," Schwab said.

Andiamo Chef Jim Oppat is concerned about the restaurant group's 1,000 employees. According to the National Restaurant Association, 100,000 restaurants have closed because of COVID-19.

"We're going to ask our customers to support us, we're going to continue our buy one, get one carry-out with a big resurgence this week. You know we don't make any money doing it really but it's a way to keep people working and provide a need for all of our guests in the metro Detroit area," Oppat said.

Some restaurant owners say they just want to see elected officials put politics aside and get help to the people who need it.

George Gize says they were already struggling at Assaggi, which has been in Ferndale for 20 years. As food prices are going up - and seating is limited, now there will be no indoor dining. That could be devastating and carryout just doesn't cut it.

"How can I survive," Gize wondered. "What's the state of Michigan doing for the businesses to survive? We still have to pay the rent, we still have to pay the electricity, we still have to pay the taxes, we still have to pay everything. So how can we survive and keep 18 people working?"

Aid from the state may not be coming as Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the money isn't there and she's pleading for federal help. But with Congress unable to agree on a stimulus plan, restaurants are hoping they can survive.

"We have no control over it so we adapt and pivot and we've been safe and very clean from the very beginning. And we've been blessed to have people embrace us and we just have to go with the flow and hopefully, we'll be back open in three weeks," Gize said.