Robert Bogatin, director of Resilient Restaurants

Robert Bogatin, director of Resilient Restaurants

Resilient Restaurants is out to help restaurants bounce back from the pandemic and thrive in whatever landscape emerges in the socially distant future.

The organization won't tell anybody how to run their business, but it will offer smaller, locally owned eateries the expertise their large, franchised competitors can afford, through workshops, discussions and analysis.

Robert Bogatin, a former restaurant owner in Boulder County, is the director of Resilient Restaurants, a partnership between the coalition Good Business Colorado and Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment, which promotes living wages, basic benefits, fair promotion policies and such.

Good Business Colorado includes more than 250 "values-driven" members, and Resilient Restaurants focuses on that key and currently endangered sector of good businesses.

The organization also has the support of Downtown Colorado Inc., a 40-year-old organization that works with downtowns, commercial districts, "Main Streets" and creative districts across the state.

Last week, the organization launched a statewide survey of Colorado restaurateurs take the temperature of an ailing industry across the state, which will be available to state planners and the public, the first significant gauge of the industry decimated by the pandemic.

"We need to assess an industry that has just revealed itself as fairly broken," Bogatin said. "There is nothing sustainable about an industry that has gone through a near total collapse that didn't have adequate funding, even back when (the shutdown) was supposed to be just four weeks."

What the future of dining out looks like depends on the smart decisions entrepreneurs are charged with making, if they plan to survive and thrive.

Resilient Restaurants, oddly enough, was planned before all this, but the pandemic changed everything.

We need to respond to what people need the most, and right now that is obviously all centered around the pandemic," Bogatin said.

The original plan was develop opportunities and resources for information-sharing and skills training with peer support around such issues as wages and working conditions, sustainable environmental practices and equity in communities.

Now the missions tilt toward restaurant survival and adapting to the coming changes around dining out.

Bogatin isn't as much interested in political advocacy, he said, as helping his members prosper by helping them figure out their place and opportunities in the Colorado marketplace for meals.

Good information creates better decisions, he said. People can't afford to think about big issues in silos anymore, either, he suggested. Resilient Restaurants is about seeing the bigger picture.

"You can't talk to a business owner about raising his payroll 20 to 30% without talking about all the other aspects that are related to that," Bogatin said. "That's where a lot of progress is often diminished, when we're not really looking at this from a holistic, systemic perspective."   

He hopes the organization is viewed as one-stop shop for restaurants looking to update their business model to align with best practices to boost employee morale and productivity, as well as their bottom line.

Among the upcoming workshops and webinars for members:

  • The High Road to Profit: Regenerative business models, Colorado Profit & Loss Case Studies.
  • Ecological Sustainability: More good/less damage, optimizing resources, no more waste.
  • Equitable Communities: Equitable workplaces, train for equity, hiring marginalized workers and sanctuary restaurants.
  • Webinar: A Financial Comparison of Actual Businesses using Tipped Wages and Service Charge Compensation Models.

"We're not interested in telling anybody how to run their business," Bogatin said. "I would never do that. I would have never responded well to somebody telling me how to run my business."

But he's confident that by working together and learning from each other, single-location establishments can generate more profits, treat their employees better and build an equity stake in their communities. What mom-and-pop locations do better than big chains is provide a sense of place and a hub, if not an incubator, for communities, he said.

Before the pandemic shutdown, nearly the entire restaurant industry was getting by on single-digit profit margins, counting on a steady flow of customers to pay half its payroll in tips, Bogatin said.

Few restaurants had socked away enough money to cover the kinds of reserves necessary to sustain the long layoff in dining.

Besides a reexamination of business models, Bogatin expects a new focus at local, sustainable supply chains supplied by Colorado farms and ranches.

Colorado has a lot riding on how restaurants rebound, and not just in the variety of eateries that make a comeback.

"The American culture almost solely experiences other cultures through food," Bogatin said. "From music to community gatherings to business presentations to civic meetings to art and entertainment, the American culture depends on experiencing food."

Learn more about the Resilient Restaurants by clicking here.

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