Just like the rest of the city, Houston’s restaurant industry will be feeling the effects of Hurricane Harvey for months to come. In addition to losing roughly a week’s income while businesses were closed, anecdotal evidence from a few restaurant industry sources indicates that establishments are generally slower than they were before the storm.
The reasons are complex and related, as noted in a recent article by Eater Houston, whether the cause is increased traffic caused by closed roads that keeps people from traveling, income that might typically go towards dining out being allocated to repairing or replacing houses and vehicles damaged by floodwater, or something else.
After an initial surge of post-Harvey cabin fever saw diners flock to restaurants that reopened quickly, particularly in neighborhoods inside the loop that were mostly unaffected, many restaurants expect to be slower in the weeks and months to come.
In order to ease some of that storm-related anxiety, Cherry Pie Hospitality, the local restaurant group behind five Houston-area restaurants including State Fare, Star Fish, and Pi Pizza, has created a packet of information to help employees access the various governmental resources available to them.
The document, which is embedded at the bottom of this article and available for download, contains information about how to apply for aid from FEMA, secure benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission for a period of storm-related unemployment or under-employment, avoid buying a flood-damaged car, and more. While the material in the packet has been prepared for a restaurant’s employees, the instructions and advice can benefit just about anyone.
“From our end, providing hospitality for people is what we do for a living ... for us, it’s really important to make sure our employees are okay because we’re asking them to deal with and offer hospitality to the public,” Cherry Pie beverage director and State Fare general manager Laurie Harvey tells CultureMap. “You can’t expect them to have a smile on their face if they just lost their house or car, and don’t feel like anyone cares about them.”
Laurie and her husband, Cherry Pie operations director Rob Harvey, compiled the information to assist their employees. Working with the company’s office administrator, Danyelle White, they’ve guided workers through the process of applying for unemployment benefits that are available for people whose businesses were closed during the storm. They say that making people aware of resources such as the bill relief from creditors has eased stress levels and made it easier for their staff to provide good service to diners, who can be distraught about their own problems.
“Sometimes when people are stressed out they take it out on a service professional,” Laurie says. “That’s part of the game. I told our employees to be really patient and understanding, and (to expect) that they’ll probably take it out on you.”
Although State Fare stayed dry, it’s proximity to the evacuation zone in West Houston and the flooded section of the Sam Houston Toll Road has disrupted the restaurant’s usual pace of business. Rob says he’s trying to keep as many people as possible working, but is also prepared to help employees seek relief for “under-employment.”
“If you (normally) work 40 hours a week, and now you work, you’re eligible for up to 70 percent of those missing 20 hours,” Rob explains.
Cherry Pie partner Lee Ellis adds that the company is sharing this information in case other restaurants need guidance on how to help their own employees with the recovery process. Restaurateurs who want assistance can contact Rob Harvey via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hurricane Harvey Info Packet on Scribd