Danny Meyer’s restaurant group, which owns beloved NYC staples like Gramercy Tavern, just laid off 80% of its workforce — and it shows how badly the pandemic has brought the service industry to its knees

Danny Meyer has operated a number of famed New York City restaurants since 1985. AP Photo
  • Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer’s famed restaurant group, laid off 2,000 employees on Wednesday morning, according to a company statement.
  • Meyer set up a relief fund for the employees, who represent 80% of his company’s workforce.
  • These layoffs are just the latest slash in the hospitality workforce brought on by the spread of coronavirus, as government-advised “social distancing” first halted the flow of restaurant-goers, then cities and states closed dine-in services altogether.
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Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group laid off 2,000 employees on Wednesday “due to a near-complete elimination of revenue,” according to a company statement.

The mass layoff represents 80% of the famed restaurant group’s workforce. According to Eater New York, the news comes after USHG kept all employees on payroll for several days, even with restaurants in the city shut down except for take-out service.

USHG operates 18 restaurants in New York City, including Gramercy Tavern, Cafes at Moma, and Daily Provisions. Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in 1985 at age 27, and went on to found Shake Shack, which is not currently part of the USHG portfolio. USHG now also encompasses catering services and a jazz club, Jazz Standard.

“In the absence of income, restaurants simply cannot pay our non-working team members for more than a short period of time without becoming insolvent. In that scenario, no one wins,” Meyer wrote in Wednesday’s statement.

On Tuesday, Meyer said he would donate his own salary to a relief fund for USHG employees, but as Business Insider’s Libertina Brandt previously reported, “a larger safety net is necessary to weather the pandemic.”

According to Patch.com, lost wages in New York City’s restaurant industry could number between $US300 million to $US400 million in just one month.

The massive cuts at Meyer’s restaurant group symbolise the impending downturn of the restaurant industry in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak – The New York Times reported that US restaurants could suffer a $US225 billion loss in the next three months alone because of it.