Holeman & Finch restaurant group lays off 325 amid coronavirus closures

COVID-19, Restaurant Industry News,

Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

With the novel coronavirus pandemic paralyzing the restaurant industry, James Beard award-winning restaurateur Linton Hopkins has temporarily closed his businesses and laid off 325 employees.

"Gina and I built five tiers of [how to handle] this progressing and jumped to Tier 5 in four days," Hopkins told Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Linton and Gina Hopkins own their eponymous Hopkins & Co. restaurant group. The company operates Holeman and Finch Public House, Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop, four H&F Burger locations, Hop's Chicken and C. Ellet's. It also runs the H&F Bread Co. wholesale bakery.

The restaurants closed on Monday. Final paychecks — for a short time, Hopkins hopes — were issued Friday. Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop and H&F Bread Co. remain active.

"The bottle shop is going full on because it’s like we’re a commodity like toilet paper," Hopkins said. "We're selling a lot of $10 bottles of wine."

The Hopkins & Co. commissary kitchen is still in business as well. While there is not much demand for the first-class food the company produces for Delta Air Lines Inc., Hopkins & Co. is preparing meals for flights to Amsterdam and London. Inventory and product from the closed restaurants has been moved to the commissary kitchen, where remaining employees are working to see what can be saved, converted and donated. Hopkins said feeding his staff is one of his "big priorities right now."

The next priority is getting ready to start up again — whenever that time comes.

"Business as we knew it ended on Sunday," Hopkins said. "Now we’re in what we call a 'transition company.' The transition company's job is to reopen these businesses."

Hopkins said he has been in regular email contact more than 60 restaurateurs and Karen Bremer, chief executive officer of the Georgia Restaurant Association. He said everyone in the group is working to support one another in the most difficult time restaurants have ever faced.

"We’re all just trying to figure out what’s a rumor, what’s a fact," Hopkins told the Chronicle. "Do we sign a petition to the governor? What do we want?

"I feel like we’re all standing on quicksand and pulling each other up when one of us slips further."