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Restaurant owner tells his workers: "We're going to get through this together"

Restaurants grapple with virus precautions
Restaurants grapple with virus precautions 04:03

When Bryan and Michael Morin took over their dad's pizzeria on the Jersey Shore three years ago, he gave his sons some fatherly advice: Take care of your employees.

Bryan drew on that lesson earlier this month when he decided to put a $50,000 bank loan into paychecks for his employees at Federico's Pizzeria & Restaurant. He said he wanted to make sure workers would have income even as the coronavirus pandemic chased away customers and as the restaurant shifted to delivery orders to keep the business afloat.

"I actually told my manager I'm going to go do something really crazy," Bryan Morin, 43, told CBS MoneyWatch. "She said, 'What are you going to do," and I said, I'm going to make sure you get paid."

Restaurants are taking one of the biggest economic hits from the widening contagion. New Jersey, like California, Florida and New York, have ordered dining areas closed, and eateries are laying off workers by the thousands. Bryan said he wanted to buck that trend. 

"I don't want anyone leaving, and I don't want anyone suffering," he said. 

Restaurants grapple with virus precautions 04:03

Others are also going above and beyond to help people financially survive what could be a prolonged disruption to the economy. Nathan Nichols, a landlord in Maine, said he won't collect rent at his properties next month because of the tough times many tenants are likely to face.

"I own a two unit in South Portland and all of my tenants are in this category," Nichols said on Facebook. "Because I have the good fortune of being able to afford it and the privilege of being in the owner class, I just let them know I would not be collecting rent in April."

An Arkansas property owner also excused his restaurant tenants earlier this month from having to pay rent. Clay Young of Young Investment Company in Jonesboro advised tenants to instead use that rent money to pay workers

In an effort to do our part, Young Investment Company will not expect it’s Restaraunt tenants to pay April rent. We ask...

Posted by Young Investment Company, L.L.C on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

"Don't worry about money"

Federico's opened more than 25 years ago on Main Street in Belmar, New Jersey. Bryan began working there in his late teens, earning $5 an hour to answer phones and take orders. He watched for years as the restaurant built a loyal customer base of firefighters, first responders and students from nearby St. Rose High School. 

After taking over from their father in 2017, the Morin brothers took out a $30,000 loan during their first year at the helm. Business was good enough so they were able to pay off the sum the following year. Another $65,000 bank loan for kitchen upgrades was also quickly paid off.

To fund their employees' pay during the virus-induced slump, the pair are drawing down half of the business' $100,000 line of credit. The restaurant's bi-weekly payroll comes to between $18,000 and $20,000. 

Bryan Morin (far right) stands with his brother Michael (far left) between two Federico's employees.  Federico's co-owner Bryan Morin

Federico's delivery drivers make $2.53 an hour plus tips, while servers make $3.50 plus tips. With gratuities, those wages ordinarily can grow to $20 an hour during the peak season, Morin said. 

Morin said he isn't worried about paying off the loan because he expects business to pick up when the danger passes. His message to his staff: "We're going to get through this together. Don't worry about money. You're not going to lose your job. You're not going to lose your income. I'm doing the right thing because you guys are like my second family."

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