Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fig & Olive was forced--for the first time--to shutter its restaurants across the U.S.
Alexis Blair, CEO, joined TheStreet to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, its impact on the restaurant industry and her thoughts on the $2 trillion stimulus package.
Watch the full video above for more.
KATHERINE ROSS: We all know that the restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard from the coronavirus pandemic. Joining me today is Alexis Blair, CEO of Fig and Olive. Fig and Olive has nine locations across the country from LA, to DC, to NYC, and it's never had to close a restaurant until now. So Alexis, what's this experience been like?
ALEXIS BLAIR: It has been one of the craziest experiences I think myself as well as anybody who works in restaurants has been through, it has been rapidly changing and extremely emotional. Our jobs are all built around providing people hospitality, and taking care of our guests as well as our employees and we're now in a situation where we are left unable to do so, and we really do operate as a family, so to look at these team members who really are like our family and tell them that we're gonna have to temporarily be laying them off is one of the most impossible and heartbreaking decisions we have ever been faced with.
KATHERINE ROSS: What is Fig and Olive doing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic?
ALEXIS BLAIR: We have been doing a lot of different things and most importantly is making decisions with keeping the safety of both our guests and our employees top of mind, and that has ultimately led to the temporary closure of all nine of our restaurants. We evaluated doing delivery and takeout options and unfortunately didn't find that that was the right thing for us to do because we felt like protecting the safety of our employees, it was best that we should close.
KATHERINE ROSS: What kind of aid does the restaurant industry get in this stimulus package, the two trillion one that was passed last week?
ALEXIS BLAIR: Absolutely, so this is a great first step in helping restaurants and small businesses sustain over the next two and a half months and under the payroll protection program in the SBA7 loans, we are able to have some continuation of payroll which will allow us to hire back some of those employees who were temporarily laid off, and also continue paying our rent and our utilities, but that will only get us so far.
KATHERINE ROSS: As you said, this is just the first step, so if you were an advisor to President Trump what would you ask for? Especially for not only your restaurants, but across the industry.
ALEXIS BLAIR: Absolutely, there should be a package specifically created for independent restaurants. What that package exactly looks like would allow us to continue to pay our employees over the course of at least six months, considering that even upon being allowed to reopen, and we don't know exactly when that is today, we will likely have to open under adjusted guidelines which will require substantial changes to our operating, especially with social distancing likely to play a role in everyday lives.
KATHERINE ROSS: One thing that I've seen a lot of is these articles about New York, like Michelin star restaurants creating these to-go meals, or like pre-packaged things that you can use to create a meal. Would that ever be down the pipeline, something that you guys would consider?
ALEXIS BLAIR: Absolutely, I think we are continuing to look at how we can evolve our operations and continue to deliver quality hospitality and an escape from the everyday to our guests, and if that means creating items that work better through delivery, or in different packaging, we are absolutely exploring those, but making sure we can do it in a way that will be safe for our employees.
KATHERINE ROSS: This has been obviously something that we can't even compare to, there's not been a historical event like this ever before, so what has this experience taught you as a leader?
ALEXIS BLAIR: It has taught me to really trust your heart and stay true to what you believe in, and also align yourself with your industry and your peers. This is something that we have to get through together and we will only get through with the support of one another.
KATHERINE ROSS: Alexis thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, and for more on the markets please head on over to TheStreet.com