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Chamber: Roughly 25 percent of KC businesses laid off workers due to pandemic

Tay's Burger Shack.jpg
Posted at 8:32 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 10:06:18-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s no secret the coronavirus pandemic is impacting business, but now the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has a better idea exactly how businesses are dealing with the virus.

The agency published the results of a survey Monday. More than 340 businesses ranging in size from less than 50 to more than 1,000 employees filled out the survey.

The results showed about 25 percent of companies have laid off employees either temporarily or permanently.

The top three concerns from business owners are the health of their employees, the uncertainty of the future and having to layoff employees.

Business owners told the chamber the top three things they need to get through the pandemic are access to workforce, tax relief and affordable loans.

When it comes to the community, businesses told the chamber these are the top three things their employees need: access to medical care, access to child care and access to social services - like food banks or rent payment assistance.

“It’s really hard. My concern is we end up like 2008, when people left the construction industry and never came back. That had a big impact on that industry. And I don’t want to see the hospitality industry suffer that,” explained Robert Joseph, who owns Banksia, an Australian bakehouse and cafe.

Joseph saw business plummet to about 90 percent what he normally sees the first week after the city forced all restaurants to be carry-out only.

“Still tough, but better than 90, which was scary,” he admitted.

Joseph had planned to open a new restaurant called Duck & Roll south of the Country Club Plaza on March 24, but Kansas City and other municipalities enacted new stay-at-home orders that day, which forced Joseph to adapt.

He now sells a few menu items from Duck & Roll at Banksia as “take-n-bake” style meals. That move allowed him to keep the 10 kitchen staff members he hired at Duck & Roll on staff.

“Chefs, kitchen workers, front of house staff, bartenders. If these people leave the industry, Kansas City will suffer long term. My real hope is that we can support it [the hospitality industry] enough,” Joeseph said.

Across the river in North Kansas City, Kent Harrison is also adapting.

He runs Tay’s Burger Shack on Armour Road and just opened a second location in south Overland Park, near 151st Street and U.S. 69.

Incredibly, Harrison is defeating the odds.

He is currently hiring staff at both locations. He said he was able to open a drive-thru at the new location to stay open and is using an old snow-cone trailer to take burger orders at the original location.

“I already hired a great group of staff members and they wanted to work, so here we all are. We adapted. We had a drive-thru, our opportunity was right there. So we didn’t even see closing the store as an option,” Harrison said.

Even with an uncertain future, both Joseph and Harrison say they look for the silver linings. For Joseph, he sees is as a soft opening for Duck & Roll. Harrison said this is the perfect time to train new employees.