Coronavirus: Perspective on a Pandemic

Coronavirus: Perspective on a Pandemic

A global response to the Coronavirus pandemic from inside the food industry. Updating regularly.

Our Coverage is Changing

In times of crisis, we must all adapt and we want to be there for our readers, keeping them informed. The future is an uncertain one but our mission remains to provide human context to the world we face, the good and bad. We’re working hard on developing new resources, stories and community tools for both the food industry and readers at home during these difficult times. More to come.

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The food industry plays a critical role in international economies, and is facing particular challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic from sourcing and supply chain to staffing and sanitation, forced closures and social distancing. 

As the media continues to monitor the situation, we at Life & Thyme have turned to industry leaders, insiders and boots on the ground to share experiences from around the world. 

We will be checking in and providing regular updates for the foreseeable future in an effort to provide context to the headlines as new details unfold. It is our hope that these insights will help guide hospitality professionals, as well as diners, in ensuring the survival of the global food community. 

Should you have information you wish to share, please send your story to

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Scott Callender
VP, Marketing and Consumer Strategy
La Marzocco USA
Seattle, WA
Confirmed Cases in Washington: 2,469 (in USA: 59,502)

This virus has created a fascinating split in my emotions. On one side, a numbing concern for the industry that I’m a part of and on the other a rare opportunity to refocus priorities on family and quality time.

I worry about my colleagues and all of the small coffee businesses that this is affecting. In an industry full of people who have chased their passion, how many people’s dreams will be destroyed? Coffee is full of people who have dedicated their lives to creating conversations and community over steamy cups. These moments that make us most connected are the very thing this virus has taken away from us. I’m engrossed with thinking about how best to help those crucial connectors of our society.

I also have realized how long it’s been since I’ve had to do long division and how fun it is to make coffee in the morning with my daughter. I’m playing Minecraft and understanding my son better. I’m eating Oreos while watching Seinfeld at night with my wife and enjoying the ability to share those simple pleasures. All the while the world outside becomes more unstable as I laugh from the inside.

We are cooking meals we’ve talked about for months. Experimenting with lasagna and perfecting a béchamel that magically disappears within the layers. Home has had its silver linings and has been an unexpected but needed joy. My hope is that through this experience we will all find ourselves better equipped to face the world that exists after we emerge with better priorities and ideas to help all of those dreamers who connect our society together.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Silvia Celeste Borrelli
Life & Thyme Member
Turin, Italy
Confirmed Cases in Italy: 53,578

[In Italy] almost all the people are taking care not to spread the virus. But even with all of our efforts, here in Turin the hospitals are full, doctors and nurses work tirelessly. A little good news is that many owners of food shops and chefs from restaurants (which have been closed by law a week ago) have started to prepare dinner for hospital staff, naturally pro bono. They are all from little shops or small producers and farmers and they will suffer (economically speaking) a lot from this situation but they’re still there to bring some food which is both good food (not just something bought from a machine) and a message that they’re not alone, people think and care about them.

I’m making two lists: one with the people I want to hug first when this will come to an end, and another of the restaurants and shops where I want to go and buy or eat, just to say “thanks” for what they’re doing now.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Elena Cruz
Diego’s Taqueria
Kingston NY
Confirmed Cases in New York: 4,152 (in USA: 11,810)

We’re doing our best to keep our heads on straight and take it day by day, or really minute by minute, cause the shit changes before you can even finish making a decision. Everyone is closed up here basically, with a handful of places open for to go business. We’re planning on opening for to go for a few hours a day, basically to run the food out, but we’re expecting that it’s only a matter of time before they put a stop to that too. It’s very scary. Like, for real. This business is already pretty scary, but this is on a whole other level. 

I’m feeling for my employees, most of whom are either part time or under the 6 month mark, which means they won’t qualify for unemployment, so there really isn’t much I can do. That’s really tough, because I feel a responsibility to help them. The unknown is the roughest, just having no timeline for anything makes it completely impossible to do anything. 

I don’t even know what would be helpful at this point because everyone is in the same scary position, not know where we’ll be in a few weeks or months; I can’t expect people to give when they don’t know what they’ll have. And realistically can we even expect the government to assist EVERYONE through this?

Dakota Weiss
Chef, Sweetfin
Los Angeles, CA
Confirmed Cases in California: 933 (in USA: 11,810)

It’s incredibly hard right now.  Just like every other small restaurant and business, I am so worried.  Stressed to the max about not only providing for myself and my family (of very high maintenance dogs) but I worried for my staff.  Most of my chefs and cooks have followed me around Los Angeles for over 15 years. It would break my heart to see us be forced to separate, even if it’s just for a little while.  I don’t want to see them struggle. But in the big picture I am having anxiety of what is going to happen with our world! This is a disaster of epic proportions on all levels. All that being said,  I am trying to stay as positive as I can and it does bring joy to me to see how so many people around the world are coming together to figure this out.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Jeremy Fox
Chef /Owner
Rustic Canyon, Birdie G’s
Los Angeles, CA

Confirmed Cases in USA: 3,823

I picked a hell of a time to go off my medication. This isn’t a joke, or an attempt to make light of a horrible situation. It’s hard to know exactly what my role should be as a public face, however niche I think I am, and how I can be as helpful as possible.

Mental health is the last thing I should be considered an authority on. But I’m also someone who lives in a constant state of trying to control or balance his own mental health. So I’m open to sharing my mindset in this time, in case it can be assuring in some way to others.

Yes, I stopped taking anti-depressants a couple of months ago, after being on them for the last 2 years or so. Am I regretting it? It’s too early to say. I’m glad that I am able to feel the full gravity of things, instead of having the protection of a force field.

Obviously everything is closed. You can read about it on the restaurant accounts. This has been the most difficult week of my career, and I’ve had some pretty difficult weeks. The uncertainty of what the right thing to do is, has certainly weighed heavily. I felt it was my responsibility to figure out a way to keep my team employed, and I did my best. I’m not sure how long we would have stayed open, but the decision was not ours to make in the end.

There are a lot of things to figure out with my teams today and in the coming days. I’ll reach out for help to those I feel may be able to help. Now is not the time to be a martyr. If you need help, please ask for it. If you have questions for me, just ask, or as the kids say “slide into my DM’s.” I can’t promise I have the answer, but if I do I’ll share. Everyone, please stay safe.

Evan Charest
Severance Wine Bar
West Hollywood, CA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 3,823

It’s heartbreaking. We had to let go most of our staff yesterday. We will stick it out as long as we can through delivery and online wine orders, but we can only hold out so long… We just don’t know what to do.

Amy Murray
Revival Bar+Kitchen

Berkeley, CA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 3,823

I’ve been a Chef/Owner since 1994 in the Bay Area and this is the first pandemic of my life. We’ve survived fires, 9/11, the 2008 crash, and the 92% increase in minimum wage. This, however, is looking insurmountable. We’re smack in the center of Berkeley, usually a bustling downtown fed by UCB, repertory theatres, etc. Now it’s a ghost town. We’ve launched take-out menus and are using SM to encourage our guests to order, buy gift cards, or book future events. But biz is down 80%. 14 private bookings cancelled in March. We were lucky to get a story on the tv news, but the entire industry is struggling to sell the food in our walk-ins. Sales began dropping on Tuesday. Will there be any kind of bail-out for us small businesses? We can only hope. Public health is paramount, but government programs to support our local economies would really help us survive. Landlords could forgive rent for the 2 weeks or more that we have to close. Cities could forgive garbage, license, tax fees.

Sebas Pertiné
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Confirmed Cases in Argentina: 56

So nice to have this talk, with our industry perspectiveI’m the owner of a restaurant here in Buenos Aires, called FRESCO. We’re struggling each day, giving the best we’ve got: real food and real people who takes care of each other, customers and ourselves, facing this challenging times together, as a community, as familia, as it is supposed to be done. It’s hitting all of us, let’s stay in this together, side by side. Be strong. Be safe.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Calypsos Coffee Roasters
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Confirmed Cases in USA: 2,443

We’re a coffee shop in North Idaho. We don’t know what to do. Simple as that. If things don’t get better in the next few days, we’re screwed. Gone. Out of business. 12 years of being known as the community’s favorite quirky coffee shop down the tubes because of a pandemic. The worst part is knowing it’s out of our control.

Seattle, WA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 2,443

My husband and I live and work in seattle. Hubby is chef and I’m pastry chef at a restaurant.  We arrived at work on Tuesday to find the locks to the restaurant changed and an email saying the restaurant is closed permanently.   Our family no longer has an income (unemployment pays $346 a week). We need to vacate our apartment and have no place to live and no job opportunities because Many of our restaurant friends are closing their doors too. Seattle is a ghost town. No one out and restaurants and shops closed. It’s devastating.

Chicago, IL
Confirmed Cases in USA: 2,443

I work in one of the most popular high volume bar-restaurants in Chicago. Even though the virus is shutting down so many things, we did a lot of volume last night as usual. But there’s a downside to that in that we were also more exposed to people who may have the virus. Me and my coworkers were all concerned. You can’t win. Either you lose money or you risk infection because we obviously can’t work from home. It’s tough. Take care out there everyone. You’re not alone.

Keegan Fong
Woon Kitchen
Los Angeles, CA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 2,443

Well, I don’t really know where to start. When I dropped my laptop and shattered the screen a couple weeks ago, or when I walked out of the house to my car stripped of all its parts a couple days later, or the break in we had 6 days ago where a meth head spent 5 hours in the restaurant overnight dressed as an employee….or yesterday when I was installing new $1500 cameras while trying to text my staff and write an instagram announcement about canceling the restaurant’s 1 year anniversary party on Saturday due to the virus. The only good thing about all of the above is that it didn’t give me time to think about how much it would really impact our business…until today when I was sitting in an empty restaurant trying to design a newsletter about No Contact Caviar delivery, cutting my staff, and then actually dealing with a little dinner rush (short staffed, running food with gloves on).

Now I’m in bed 15 hours later trying to create a newsletter for a sock collection we’re launching tomorrow that will hopefully sell well enough to subsidize the losses we’ll be taking. But instead I’m procrastinating and venting to you guys. :)

Cassady Conner
Detroit, Michigan
Confirmed Cases in USA: 2,443

My life in the service industry has been impacted in these ways..

1. My restaurant sells an average of 10k on a Friday. We closed an hour early today and barely made 3k. 

2. I’m worried for my fellow industry workers for the simple fact that to the public we have been placed on “the back burner” so to speak. We are on the frontline with medical staff and our honor for it is nonexistent.

This industry needs an evolution to treat its employees better. Enough of the excuses that the public won’t pay more for food. Yes they will. You know what doesn’t work? Dead employees.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Elena Valeriote
Life & Thyme Correspondent
Tuscany, Italy
Confirmed Cases in Italy: 17,660

Ariane Lotti is the manager of Tenuta San Carlo, an agritourism located in Tuscany, Italy that grows organic rice, raises cattle, and rents short-stay farmhouse apartments. When asked about how the coronavirus is affecting her business, Ariane explains, “On the one hand, farming goes ahead. Plants grow and animals need to be fed, so our daily work on the farm hasn’t been directly impacted. We’re continuing to grow food. On the product sales side, we’ve seen increased orders from stores because people are staying at home – as they should – and are cooking at home. The flip side of that for us is that we’ve had to suspend the agritourism side of the business.” Under normal circumstances, Tenuta San Carlo would welcome guests to the farm in mid-March, allowing people to pass their holidays in private apartments on the property or to visit for a day and participate in various public events, including educational farm tours. However, all agritourism activities have been postponed for the time being. As a business in both the agriculture and tourism sectors, Tenuta San Carlo is supported by two different streams of income, which means that it will not suffer as severely as some other businesses in Italy, but the financial consequences of the coronavirus are still expected to have a devastating impact on its annual revenue. 

Antico Forno Roscioli
Rome, Italy
Confirmed Cases in Italy: 17,660

We are in the very center of Rome, next to Campo de’ Fiori. It’s a hard time, but we’re gathering together, to stand together. We resist, we survive, nobody will be left behind. Roscioli is a family, fourth generation of bakers. 70 families of employees are making half their living by working all together. The community is doing amazingly in terms of food: home deliveries have been organized and each building has its residents offering to shop for the elders. It’s a crisis, but an opportunity as well. We are increasing home deliveries, creating special offers for the daily shopping, and also delivering the pizza dough to the families asking for it. We increased our deli menu and are delivering it also, unlike we did before.

Andy Doubrava
Executive Chef, Rustic Canyon
Los Angeles, CA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 1,875

We are seeing a significant drop in reservations as of today. We are trying our best to not cut our workers’ hours, but that will simply not be possible if we don’t have the sales to support the labor. We’re here, open, to hopefully give our guests a chance to forget about the outside circumstances and trust in our safe practices.

Sage Kitchen
New York City, NY
Confirmed Cases in USA: 1,875

We are a restaurant and catering company on the Bowery in Manhattan and have already been seriously  impacted by the current happenings regarding coronavirus. As a small business founded and operated by three friends, we are trying to do everything we can to react and keep our business running. We are messaging through our social and marketing channels about our delivery abilities, new programs like meal plans for our guests, “Fill the Fridge,” and also offering our chef and cooks if a customer would like in-home catering. We are also working with neighboring restaurants to share staff hours so that we do not have to lay-off staff, and they can continue working to provide for themselves and their families. We have also communicated the additional cleaning and sanitizing measures we’ve implemented to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to keep our community safe.

Jarred Dooley
GM/Director of Libations, Playground Restaurant
Santa Ana, CA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 1,875

Completely unprecedented. I don’t think there has been a crisis like this in the US since the Great Depression. 

We, at home, have made sure our pantry looks good. I’ve ordered some proteins that I can freeze or cook and freeze just in case. The girls are still in school, and the school seems to be taking cues from the neighboring schools, but Chapman and UCI both closed their campuses. 

I’m struggling as well because of the leadership role. I’m being asked questions on safety and health that I don’t feel qualified to answer (which is, frankly, my answer). I told a server today that our best answer to staff safety is: good personal hygiene. This is what I’m practicing, but I feel wholly unqualified to give an answer.

I had my first server decline to come in due to personal safety concerns for the rest of this week. I don’t know if I’ll have a staff who can come into work next week, but there are too many people who rely on the restaurant being open to shut it down preemptively. Talk about a rock and hard place.

Our hope is that if the staff as a whole can all take a cut, we can make it through this time. 

Man, I can totally envision a world where the morning after this is sent, a cure is found, and faith in our government and the leaders of the world are restored. I just have little to no faith that the people in charge of our government have the capacity to solve this problem. Holy shit.

Rylie Liana Houston
Seattle, WA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 1,875

I work at a restaurant and bar in Seattle in the South Lake Union Area, surrounded by emptied Amazon and Facebook buildings. Sales are down by at least 50-70%. My manager sent me a link and I already applied for Standby/Partial Unemployment. I went from working 56 hours a week to getting mostly called off, down to about 15 hours a week max. My boyfriend worked as an Expo in the same spot, and he’s been laid off for at least a month and applied as well. This is crazy, and we’re just trying to keep our heads up.

Brooke Williamson
Chef & Owner, Playa Provisions
Los Angeles, CA
Confirmed Cases in USA: 1,875

It’s just fucking scary out there! We’re already an industry with no safety-net… one bad week and you’re scrambling to figure out how to cover payroll and rent. The unknown is the worst part. Add to that, being in a beach community with a solid week of rain. I have to assume everyone is in the same boat, but that doesn’t make it less stressful. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Not even during 9/11.

Jennifer Reichardt
Liberty Ducks Farmer / Raft Wines Producer
Sonoma, California
Confirmed Cases in USA: 1,875

[We’re] fucked. Ok that’s a little strong. But the small farmer is going to get the real short end of this. It was such a crazy drop between last week and this week and I just can’t imagine what next week is going to be. Wine is fine, ducks are an issue. They can only be done at certain weeks for processing and we max that out. So if we have no where to sell to it’s just lost. We’ll start freezing a lot but the cash flow will be certainly be an issue.

Menoua Avedian
Pastry Shop Owner
Confirmed Cases in Iran: 11,364

In Iran since 3 weeks ago many business were closed. But the point is that in 6 days it’s Iranian new year and the last month of the year is the most busy and money making days for businesses. We have a pastry shop and it’s usual that people buy sweets for celebrating new year but we didn’t had many costumers and it’s had to pay salaries. We are closing today till an unknown time.

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