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Coronavirus: Chef And Restauranteur Wolfgang Puck Talks About Challenges Facing Restaurant Industry

What will restaurants look like when they reopen? It’s a question that owners of both small and large restaurants are trying to sort out, and world famous chef and restauranteur Wolfgang Puck said so much is uncertain. 

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — What will restaurants look like when they reopen? 

It’s a question that owners of both small and large restaurants are trying to sort out in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and world famous chef and restauranteur Wolfgang Puck said so much is uncertain.

“What I think the scariest thing is, we do not know when and how we are going to open,” he said.

Puck said the key for both big and small restaurants would be the same — making the customer feel comfortable dining out again.

“I really believe until we have a system where we can test our employees, where the customers can get tested, it will be very difficult to open,” he said. “Even if we say, ‘OK, we can space the tables, even if that means 50% occupancy.’ You know what, if we will get 50% occupancy, I will be so happy.”

But Puck also worries about the up-and-coming chefs who have just gotten started with their restaurants.

“I know a lot of young chefs who just opened their restaurants and now they closed down,” he said. “They were open a year and a half, starting to pay back their loans. And you know, sooner or later, the bank or the investors or somebody is going to come and say, ‘You know, we want our money.'”

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And the same questions are facing restaurant owners across the Southland. The owners of Hugo’s restaurant in West Hollywood, and another restaurant in the valley, said they were making plans for the future and the new normal.

“We’ll be removing some tables from the floor plan permanently,” Bill Kohne said. “We’re also going to be doubling our waiting area. So, when you walk in to the restaurant, you’re going to have twice as much space.”

Kohne said his restaurants are focused on making customers and staff feel safe.

“The things they’ll see will be people in gloves and masks for the foreseeable future,” he said.

But above all, innovation will be key for the future of the industry, as restauranteurs who can adapt to a new world will likely be the ones to thrive.

“The restaurants, you know, we invested so much money building the restaurants,” Puck said. “So we are going to try to keep the restaurants open and do both, do take-out and in-restaurant dining.”

But Puck has one suggestion that could make the future a bit more secure, restore the business entertainment tax deduction.