March 18, 2020

The COVID-19 Trojan Horse – Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants

As the coronavirus spreads and I watch our collective reaction to it, I’ve got to wonder if our reaction is doing more harm than the virus itself. People are stock piling goods, toilet paper is almost a black market item, guns & ammunition have taken a surge in sales, and the stock market is a wild ride. The irresponsible media, in their blood-lust for ratings and hype, have been pushing fear and worse case scenarios without providing us with some of the most important information on stemming the tide, controlling fear, and avoiding crisis. What is the coronavirus impact on restaurants & the economy? How do we balance public safety and economic safety?

Until March 16th all we heard from the media on a daily basis was, “numbers of people infected” “number of people who died” “number of countries infected” “world wide pandemic” and worst of all “not enough test kits” “everyone who feels ill should get tested”.

Cities across the country have closed restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities, sporting events, and have limited community gatherings to as few as 50 people.

coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy

Now restaurant & hospitality workers, along with people from many other industries hit hard by these business closures, are going to have difficulty paying their bills because they have no income. Out of fear of catching COVID-19 (important note to remember: for most people it is similar to getting the flu, except that it is more contagious) people are now out of work and faced with financial hardship, unable to pay their mortgage or feed their families. Is economic hardship the Trojan Horse of the coronavirus? Is a financial/economic crisis the real terror of COVID-19?

Flatten the Curve

This week (March 16th) the media is finally telling us something responsible… “flatten the curve”. But they are still foolishly talking about test kits and the need for testing. The phrase to “flatten the curve” has two possible meanings: 1) reduce the number of people who catch COVID-19.  2) reduce the number of people who need access to healthcare providers for critical care. It essentially means doing what it takes to keep our healthcare system from getting overwhelmed.

If we want to “flatten the curve” then stop overwhelming our healthcare system. According to the excellent infographic below, 80% of people who get coronavirus experience only mild symptoms similar to the regular flu. This suggests to me that getting tested just to be tested is part of the problem which overwhelms the healthcare system. If you have mild flu-like symptoms then call your doctor (don’t automatically go to the doctor or hospital with mild symptoms), heed their advice, stay home, self-quarantine for 14 days, and get well. Don’t push for getting tested! Getting tested will change nothing, you will still be sick, they can’t give you a pill to cure it. Only get tested if your doctor advises it.

Getting tested simply to know if you have coronavirus puts an undo burden on healthcare workers for no good reason. Save testing for the smaller percentage of people who are experiencing severe symptoms. These are the people who are probably already health compromised. These are the people who are most at risk, who need access to healthcare. The rest of us should just call our doctor and stay home until our fever has broke and we are healthy for 2 weeks.

It is very true that COVID-19 is extremely contagious. That is clearly the biggest concern and steps need to be taken to control its spread. But putting a “Closed” sign on the world while we hide in our homes with no income and live on canned goods & ramen isn’t a great solution. And it isn’t sustainable…no money leads to much more drastic problems than a fever. The coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy is of equal importance as the virus itself. The average American lives check to check. Missing 2 weeks of income will be extremely painful. Missing a month will be devastating.

Temporary shutdown of a city (or the country) only makes sense if the goal is to keep our healthcare facilities from being overwhelmed with an onslaught of patients beyond healthcare provider’s ability to effectively handle (which is one of the key concerns pointed out in the infographic below…hence, flatten the curve). But such a shutdown needs to work hand in hand with getting people back to work or getting them financial relief until they can return to work. The coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy should not become worse than the virus itself. Let’s not go from thinking “everything is going to be fine” to thinking “everyone is going to die.”

COVID-19 is NOT the Black Plague!

So, let’s take a moment, take a deep breath, and really ask ourselves the most important question: is COVID-19 in the same terrifying category as the Black Plague? No, it’s not because about 96% of people who get coronavirus recover from it. The real danger is in overwhelming healthcare system (which will result in unnecessary deaths) and in economic distress.

Here is some enlightening data on the virus courtesy of informationisbeautiful

COVID-19 stats
infographic courtesy of  informationisbeautiful

Key takeaways from this purely data-based information:

  • 96.3% of people recover!
  • 80.9% only experience mild flu-like symptoms
  • Those most at risk of dying are 60+ years old
  • Those most at risk of dying are 60+ and have other health conditions, especially respiratory or compromised immune conditions. (note: these people are unfortunately most at risk regardless of the virus concern)
  • Only 0.9% of healthy people w/ no existing conditions have died
  • The greatest health risk to everyone as a whole appears to be when the existing healthcare systems are overwhelmed and critically ill patients therefore cannot receive effective treatment

The majority of people who die from it are already at risk regardless of whether they have COVID-19, the regular flu, pneumonia, or any of the other common illnesses which cause the death of immune compromised people. This is not a disease which kills thousands or millions of normally healthy people. But it does definitely kill at risk people.


Here is a fantastic video explaining how COVID-19 attacks the lungs and is therefore a very serious concern for the elderly (who commonly die from pneumonia) and/or at risk people.


Common Sense – Protect Yourself, those Around You, and the Economy

COVID-19 recoverySpeaking for myself, I would much rather experience symptoms similar to the flu, be sick for a few days, self-quarantine as recommended, and then be able to go back to work. I don’t want to be out of work for weeks on end. That financial hardship would be worse than a fever and some body aches.

Please listen carefully to what I am trying to communicate… I am not saying that the coronavirus is no big deal and that it’s not something to be concerned about. We need to take recommended precautions, practice hand washing and social distancing along with the other recommended precautions. But we don’t need to kill the economy! The coronavirus is not the black plague. Yes, it is more contagious than the regular flu. Yes if you are health-compromised, or have regular contact with someone who is health-compromised, it is especially a concern for you and you would be wise to take every precaution necessary to avoid getting COVID-19.

But look at the stats… 96% of the people who get the virus get better! 96%! This is not something to be terrified of. It is just something to be cautious about. Should we decimate our economy just so we don’t get a fever? Right now it appears to me that the havoc the coronavirus is having on the economy could be far worse than the coronavirus itself.

Let’s not destroy the entire economy out of fear of something that won’t hurt 96% of us for more than a short time. Be safe, be prudent, protect those around you, look to a brighter future, and eat at restaurants after this cloud passes! Life goes on!

The “Burn Everything” Approach is Foolish!

Closing every restaurant and social contact business in an entire state is a knee jerk reaction which causes more harm than good. Just because Seattle has a lot of illnesses and should be shut down doesn’t mean that the same response applies to Smalltown USA! There are tons of small towns which have no COVID-19 cases and yet the State is mandating that they close shot, stop business, loose money, and perhaps loose their small business when no one in their area even has the virus.

A more prudent solution would be to contain cities which have the virus, restrict travel to/from other cities/towns, and let businesses continue to run if no one in their area has the virus.  As of March 23rd  only 1.2% of US cases have resulted in death…1.2%!  Lets not destroy our economy and drive ourselves into the Great Depression to prevent 1% of the population from dying! FEAR of COVID-19 has become the real Bogeyman .

Businesses need to stay open unless there is a local virus threat. Don’t cause/force small-town American businesses to die because of a virus in big-town America.

Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants Additional Resources:

Looking for quality feedback/conversation/discussion/debate. Please present your opinions w/o flamethrowers or rocks!

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Jennifer Ceniceros

Thank you for this

Leon Grigg

Thank Chef,
I am with you !


My sentiments perfectly encapsulated in one informative, data-based article. Great work. I’m from Australia and have been compiling data this morning, as I knew from the very first day this whole thing was media-driven hysteria designed to have huge societal impact, and I wanted the numbers to validate my arguments. That is how I wound up here, and yours is some of the most intriguing and expansive data that I can find! I am quite annoyed (but hardly surprised) that the Death numbers on WHO and Worldometers give absolutely no further information any longer, with the Age and Pre-Ex data… Read more »


If they don’t flatten the curve, the system won’t be able to cope. The area above the dotted line is the people that need critical care but can’t get it because of the lack of specialized equipment (such as ventilators) and beds. 80% of people may only have mild symptoms, but 5% or so will need critical care. That is part of the reason why Italy’s death toll is so high, but Germany’s is much lower. (Although, it doesn’t fully explain the difference. Truth is, there appears to be a lot of variation between countries that is not easily explained.)… Read more »


Hi Leonard, Some interesting points of view there and some points that have to be given good consideration. Regarding your Italy/Germany comment, in my analysis I have introduced Population data and Median age to better understand what otherwise look like outliers. Italy has the 2nd highest median age, whilst fellow European country in distress, Spain, have the 6th highest age. This gives a clearer understanding of why it has been such devastating impact in those countries, as they have a much older population and therefore a greater % of their population at risk. No one in their right mind can… Read more »


According to Dr Swan (see link to podcast) some of the differences between countries might be explained by smoking rates. (This could also explain male / female variation.) – Eg high rates of (older) male smokers in Italy. Dr Swan also believes any country could get on top of the virus in 4 to 6 weeks (even the US)….however everyone has to be onboard, and, unfortunately, the economy has to effectively close down for 4 to 6 weeks. During the weeks of shutdown, government has to ramp up testing kits, procedures, etc. Things can then go back to (mostly) normal.… Read more »


“…If one drop of water falls into a large stadium..” Er, I think that works out at 47 drops by the 47 minute mark: )

I meant to also say: and doubles every minute. Eg 2 drops a 2 mins, 4 drops at 3 mins, 8 drops at 4 mins, etc, etc. My bad.

Andrea Renee Welch

Thank You! Thank You for Clarity

Randy Burns

Great post Chef. My biggest problem with the whole scenario is that our testing systems are very flawed and inaccurate Here’s something that gives an alternative perspective;


In the current pandemic environment, the must-have accessory is a face mask to protect yourself and others. You should have a mask having ingenious ties system allowing you to adjust your mask as per comfort in seconds. It should cover your face and nose having good breathability. I would like to suggest this mask for all chefs coping up in this pandemic :

Tommy Peters

Veganism & Bidets! Folks, restaurateurs in particular, given the virus is said to have originated at a meat market, consider meat consumers the trojan amongst us. Given only slaughterers, rather the slaughtered animals, are tested at abattoirs and meat markets, common-sense dictates that a meatless and dairy-free diet is necessary, at least for the duration of the scourge.  The lack of bidets is more insidious. Granted, it is an uncomfortable topic for the papyrus-centric, but highlighting the trojan in the faecal-oral route is salient, given it is established that faeces in the environment is a transmitter of all and sundry,… Read more »

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