The Plight of Small Businesses
On the Front Lines of the Pandemic, the Plight of Small Businesses Cannot be Understated.
Celebrated former White House chef John Moeller is in the thick of battle during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the seemingly peaceful landscape of rural Pennsylvania, an epic struggle for small business owners is raging, and it hasn’t left locally born Moeller untouched. While he himself remains healthy, his catering and restaurant businesses are in full tilt reorganization to keep everything afloat. With him in the same battle are thousands of small business owners all over the country.
In a recent interview, Moeller tells us how he’s doing. “Health-wise, we are all okay. When it [COVID-19] first came up, we knew something was going to be happening. It was apparent from watching what was going on in Europe. “A Crisis on Several Fronts
Moeller was proven right. When COVID-19 began spreading throughout the U.S., businesses began taking severe financial hits. From huge corporations to small businesses, everyone was affected. Mom and pop shops and restaurants were told to either close or change how they serviced customers entirely.
State governments began handing down dictates for how we may conduct ourselves to stop the virus in its tracks. Stand six feet from each other; wear a mask, or in these last days, don’t leave home at all. This was devastating to the financial bottom lines of small shops and restaurants, depending on foot traffic to survive.
What It Felt Like
Moeller describes it like this, “It was the 16th of March at 2:00 in the afternoon. The Governor comes out and says restaurants and bars need to close at midnight tonight. Within less than eight hours, your business is going to be shut down. You have inventory in there ready to serve the next day and employees ready to come in the next day. I’m calling all 30 of them and instantaneously laying them off.”
A Well-Seasoned Career
Moeller will not relent in his fight to keep his catering and restaurant businesses alive for himself and the dedicated people in his employ. In his arsenal of weapons to fight business devastation are years of experience as a White House Chef under three presidents: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Moeller vaulted to this envied, high-pressure position after traveling and training in Europe then the Caribbean, learning how to prepare exquisite dishes with a touch of the exotic.
Hail to the Chef
While working for colleague Pierre Chambrin at the prestigious D.C. eatery Maison Blanche, Moeller was given the opportunity to join Chambrin at the White House as his sous chef. Eventually, Moeller was tapped to take over as Head Chef in the People’s House. The experience gained there is quite unique and only held by a small group of talented professionals.
Creativity is Key
Many years of exquisite banquets with dignitaries announced at the last minute, massive VIP events, and the exacting standards of international scrutiny have given him the disciplines he needed to flip the priorities of his restaurant from huge catered events to take-out dinners aimed at locals. The cash flow from this “turn on a dime” reorganization is vital to keeping both his enterprise and the jobs he provides alive when this pandemic has blown over.
The Fight is Real
Moeller’s masterful strategy of retooling for take-away meals is working well. He has loyal local support and gains even more by posting his menus on social media. People, from as far away as New Jersey, have contacted him to order food. His next big project is preparing sumptuous Easter Dinners available for pickup in time to celebrate the High Holiday.
Moeller says of this experience, “Within two days I started offering ready-made meals to go, working together with my wife and son. We’re trying to figure out this new system, and social media has been a big help! Being able to post our menus and letting people know what’s available. Tuesday, we sent it out, and Wednesday, we were really busy.”
Congress has recently passed a two-trillion-dollar stimulus package to assist American companies trying to cope financially during the crisis. Moeller hopes it gets to the people on the “front lines,” the millions of small business owners trying to keep the jobs they provide from disappearing as well as shoring up their own finances to stay afloat.
An Urgent Request
Moeller’s message to the government is clear, “Don’t forget about us. We are the front line. I would be very upset if I saw our leaders giving bailouts to big industries as they have in the past. I, as a business owner for many years and an American citizen my entire life, have never asked for a handout ever. But now, my hand is out. I had money in the bank, and it’s not there anymore. I want my employees back and need that infusion of cash.”
As Moeller continues his noble fight, he stands in solidarity with other small business owners in the same situation. He advises everyone to stay healthy and informed, as this will eventually pass. He also advises not to let this affect us too much psychologically going forward, although he suspects it will a little.
“People are going to keep distance from one another after this has passed. This social distancing will be part of our DNA for a while, and it will take time before someone wants to shake your hand.”
We invite you to read our article on Chef John Moeller and learn more about his passion for culinary excellence.