For local businesses like Strada Pizza, the pandemic means compounded profit cuts

School closures, catering cancellations impact income for local restaurants

Like+many+small+businesses+in+San+Francisco%2C+Strada+Pizza+struggles+to+adjust+to+the+new+normal.+With+its+primary+customers+out+of+schools%2C+the+owners+struggle+to+make+ends+meet+in+the+Sunset+district+on+February+2%2C+2020.+%28Amalia+Diaz+%2F+Golden+Gate+Xpress%29

Amalia Diaz

Like many small businesses in San Francisco, Strada Pizza struggles to adjust to the new normal. With its primary customers out of schools, the owners struggle to make ends meet in the Sunset district on February 2, 2020. (Amalia Diaz / Golden Gate Xpress)

On Jan. 28, San Francisco officially restarted its economy, and the city allowed outdoor dining and personal service businesses to reopen. Restaurants without outdoor dining like Strada Pizza are still facing this severe loss, and the main reason for the result is the lack of the main customer base.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, lifting the stay-at-home order last Monday, offered a positive sign to many small businesses in San Francisco. According to Mastercard usage data shared with the SF Chamber of Commerce, an estimated 85% of small businesses are not operating in the Financial District and South of Market.

According to Yelp’s local economic report, more than 19,000 businesses in California will be permanently closed in 2021. The main reason is the lack of consumers.

Kevin Razi, co-owner of Strada Pizza, gets ready to open its door at 4 p.m in the Sunset district on February 2, 2020. (Amalia Diaz / Golden Gate Xpress) (Amalia Diaz)

Kevin Razi and Sheida Tavakoli, co-owners of Strada Pizza and SF State alumni, bought the establishment in September 2019. They said that their primary customers are the kids from the high school who come down the street. They had a quick turnaround, but once the schools closed, they noted a drastic change of pace.

“In addition, the downtown companies were all shut down also, because everybody was working remote. So we couldn’t even depend on any catering business, we had a little bit of catering business. But we couldn’t even depend on that at all. So that has totally pretty much kind of shut down,” Tavakoil said.

Tavakoli added that the shrinking revenue, business hours and lack of governmental aid compounded their business’ complications since the start of the pandemic.

“The government has some protection measures for small and medium-sized businesses, but as a beginning, we have no conditions to get these benefits,” Razi said.“I hope that the government can take more actions to help our start-up small and medium business owners.”

Tavakoli said that the restaurant’s turnover was much lower than his expectations, but he could not control the non-stop station of muni in front of the store and the non-opening of the school.

According to data compiled by Beacon Economics, more than 100,000 people lost restaurant jobs in the Bay Area, a decrease of 33.6% from 2019.

Eddie Tolanco,  a chef at Strada Pizza, also faced the employment crisis caused by COVID-19 before becoming the chef here.

“I am very happy to work here. I am glad that I have a job and I was fired from the last restaurant because of the epidemic,” Tolanco said. Then he said that it is difficult to find a job for everybody until the pandemic problem is solved; the future is vague and there are many uncertainties.