Takeout and delivery aren’t enough for most restaurants to survive on.
Bona Italian Restaurant is a Wilton Manors institution. It’s been a community favorite for years thanks in part to its pizza and homestyle Italian cuisine.
The delicious food and attentive service are enough to keep people flocking to its Wilton Drive location. But others are drawn to Bona Italian because of the many ways the restaurant generously gives back to the community.
The restaurant supports a countless number of nonprofits and causes. These days the community is giving back to Bona Italian.
“Our customers are amazing,” said owner Glen Weinzimer. “People have been magnanimous. That’s what keeps us going.”
The restaurant’s staff has pared down from 18 to 8. In the blink of an eye, they were furloughed or had their hours cut. They can apply for unemployment. But right now, hundreds of thousands of Floridians have applied for assistance. Only a small fraction has received a payment.
Instead of waiting tables, these days employees are taking phone orders and lots of them. This new business model is cutting into the restaurant industry’s already razor-thin margins.
Instead of serving food on plates, restaurants are paying more for those ubiquitous plastic to-go boxes or Styrofoam containers. Consider this: many restaurants make their profits from customers ordering wine and soda. Servers earn money from tips. Those money-making elements aren’t part of the take-out equation.
While businesses were caught up in the coronavirus tailspin, Weinzimer jumped into action to apply for a bridge loan offered by the Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration.
“I never heard back,” he said. He then submitted an application for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He was approved in mid-April. When we spoke at the end of the month, he hadn’t received the money.
It’s a perilous time for Bona Italian, even as the restaurant remains open. It’s fallen behind in paying bills, including one food vendor, who stopped selling to Bona. This is the first week that payroll won’t happen. “There’s not enough money,” Weinzimer said.
It’s a scenario playing out across South Florida. Business owners are waiting on loans, support, and assistance, with no idea when their companies can open, re-staff, or return to work. It’s a waiting game, with no end in sight.
“If the money shows up, I’ll pay rent, payroll, and utilities,” Weinzimer said.
Amid this stressful time, Weinzimer is in no rush to open his dining room to the public.
“I think the state reopening soon would be a horrible mistake,” he said. “I can’t imagine that we’re close to people eating in a restaurant.”
And while so much is unknown, some things are for sure. For Bona, it’s the kindness of others. That includes people buying food for first responders, having a meal delivered to a friend, and supporting a business that supports its community.
Even on stressful days, Weinzimer remains optimistic. “I do think there’s a lot of good that will come out of this,” he said. “I think people will figure out their work/life balance. There will be improved relationships. I think this is a good opportunity for people to reassess their goals and work on a long-term life plan. That’s what I hope comes out of this.”
Visit Facebook.com/groups/WMGazette to join the Gazette's community Facebook page.