The Restaurant That Needs A Miracle

Glenn Meert's beef brisket may still fill stomachs, but it's not filling seats anymore at his Elkhart, Ind., restaurant.

He says business really started to drop off.

"I would say what happened was when the gas hit the $4 a gallon mark, we saw a significant drop, and then as soon as the banking bailout crisis happened - it was a freefall," Meert said.

His employees don't know it yet, but they're in for a crash landing, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.

"I'm not looking forward to this. This is going to be the hardest thing I've done in 15 years," Meert said.

He's already laid off 12 people from the restaurant and catering company he's run for 14 years - but still, he's losing as much as $4,000 a week.

"Now I'm going to have to tell them that some decisions have been made, and we're going to have to more or less shut down," he said.

The town has seen a lot of places shut down lately. Elkhart, once driven by the RV industry, has been hit hard - first by high gas prices, then by the credit crunch. The unemployment rate has almost doubled in a year to 10 percent, as factories shut down and retailers shuttered.

At this point, waitress Jennifer Rambow feels lucky to make $200 a week.

"When you're waiting tables - are you hearing people talk about the layoffs; about the plant closings?" Doane asked Rambow.

"No, but you can see it in the tips," she said. "When I first started, the average tip was about five bucks. Now it's about two or three."

It's a dismal picture for Glenn Meert's brother, Kevin, who keeps the books.

"It's like you walk in and it's like 'Oh, God, please let's not have any problems today,' because we don't have the cash flow," he said.

And no cash means no other choice for Meert. He had a meeting with his staff to tell them about the financial woes.

"We're in trouble - we'll be in trouble in about 30 days," he said. "I don't want to blindside you and you tug on the door - and the door is locked."

Without a miracle, the waitstaff and dishwashers will be without work in a month.

"He's saying go look for a job - 30 days to look for a job? Well, we're going to be looking for a lot longer than that, because there are no jobs to look for," Rambow said.

She has a 2-year-old a home. And Sarah, the hostess, is pregnant - and due any day.

"We can go down through the stories - single mom living with a parent, single mom living with grandma - trying to make ends meet," Meert said.

One worker said: "Yea, my mom's house just got foreclosed. Now she's living with us too."

And Pat, the cook, has grandkids to care for - and already cannot make her house payment.

"I'm not one to ask for handouts, so I just struggle all my life and pay my bills the best I can," she said.

With the end of the restaurant looming, another struggle begins for people who are already barely hanging on. It's a journey CBS News will follow as they search for a new future.
  • Seth Doane

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