“We were doing really well pre-COVID. 2020 was off to what I felt like was a great start. We were ahead of schedule from the previous year and we were going to do really well. Then COVID hit.

“Initially sales dropped by around 80%. Of course, you have to cut back on staffing and we still had inventory and the payments are not due for 14 days or so. Those big orders were made when demand was high and now bills are coming due when there’s no money.

“Sales may be down 80% but the bills are still 100%.

“We were dipping into our personal funds, which we didn’t have a lot of, to keep the business alive. It’s like people holding onto a foreclosing house — trying and trying and you’ll end up foreclosed when you could have just bailed anyway. It’s hard because you just have no idea if you’re going to make it.

“Taxes are tough. If we could get a tax break, that would help a lot. I know it’s difficult, but I want our legislators to understand that jobs are not dispensable.

“We don’t have outdoor seating — and if you look at Chicago on a percentage basis, there isn’t a lot of outdoor seating. We’re just reopening our dining room at 25% capacity and we’re only open Friday through Monday with delivery the rest of the week.

Batter & Berries is known for its French toast flight.

“[The restrictions] are not sustainable. We’re still walking a line. Staffing is an issue and that’s part of the reason we’re trying to ease back into it. Not everyone wants to work for a variety of reasons; the main two are either they’re collecting unemployment and they’re on that until it runs out, or they’re not comfortable yet coming back into the environment.

“I think we can make it through the summer, but the fall gets a little tricky. In general, restaurant sales go down in the fall which doesn’t help. Then there’s also the potential [COVID-19] surge.

“If the county or state could give us a tax break right now, that would be huge – some kind of restaurant tax break. I’ve had to raise prices to try and cover payments.

“Minimum wage just went up again and I personally wish they could have pushed that back because I think it’s more important that you maintain jobs right now. Increasing expenses on us right now isn’t good. I think it is important to make sure we maintain jobs. Raise [wages] after we can [fully] open up.

“Chicago is the entertainment center of the Midwest. When you think of 40% of restaurants possibly not making it, they’re not going to be the national chains – they’re going to be the local spots that showcase the flavor of our city.

“What will we have to showcase?”

Craig Richardson
Owner, Batter & Berries
Chicago, Illinois

From right, owners Craig Richardson and Dr. Tanya Richardson with chef Ken L. Polk