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Trump Says Restaurants Will Make a Comeback, Just Maybe With New Owners

The president’s response to projections that 11 percent of restaurants could go out of business in the next month due to COVID-19 was less than reassuring to current restaurant owners

Wearing a black sport coat and red tie, Donald Trump gestures at a White House press briefing with Mike Pence in the background. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a White House press conference on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump addressed the grim projections by the National Restaurant Association that, in addition to the 3 percent of restaurants already shuttered, 11 percent of restaurants nationwide anticipate that they’ll close permanently in the next 30 days due to the economic impact of novel coronavirus. His answer, characteristically bullish, was that restaurants will open and thrive again...but maybe not under the current ownership.

Citing the data from the National Restaurant Association survey, McClatchy reporter Michel Wilner asked, “What do you say to a restaurant owner who is looking at his sheets and thinks he has to close within the next 30 days?”

The president responded with a tangent boasting his knowledge of the restaurant industry, saying, “I know the business very well, I understand the restaurant business, it’s a very delicate business, it’s a business that is not easy. I always say in the restaurant business you can serve 30 great meals to a person or a family and they love it. One bad meal, No. 31, they never come back again. It’s a very tough business. But they’re great people that run restaurants.”

Circling back to the original question, Trump continued, “I’ve heard 3 percent could be lost, and you could go as high as 10 or 11 percent, but they’ll all come back in one form of another. Might be a different restaurant. But it’s gonna be a great business for a lot of people. We’re making it easy for people — look, what we’re doing in terms of loans, what we’re doing in terms of salaries, they’ll all come back. It may not be the same restaurant, it may not be the same ownership, but they’ll all be back. (Emphasis ours.)

That the concept of restaurants would continue to exist after the pandemic was never really a question. The concern, rather, is that people will lose their jobs and businesses, and with that, the incomes that they circulate back into the economy. As Eater’s Hillary Dixler Canavan wrote, surviving restaurants will “reopen their doors to a new world of challenges, not least of which is facing a dining public likely either coming out of or in the midst of a global recession.” Which doesn’t bode well for these imagined new restaurants or their new ownership, either.