Acadiana businesses brace for significant losses, some foresee laying off more than 100 employees

Nearly every business in Acadiana is preparing for a revenue to drop as the result of the coronavirus pandemic with a majority of them bracing for it to be down significantly, a survey shows.

Over 70% of the nearly 1,000 businesses surveyed in the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey are anticipating that significant drop, and over a third said they are considering laying off workers. A small number of businesses also estimated layoffs could impact over 100 employees.

The survey was conducted last month by One Acadiana, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, Opportunity Machine, Downtown Development Authority, Louisiana Small Business Center at UL Lafayette, Acadiana Workforce Solutions, Acadiana Planning Commission, United Way of Acadiana, and other local chambers and regional economic development offices from around the Acadiana region.

Two-thirds of respondents indicated their business was watching spending closely. More than half reported event and order cancellations, concern about their workforce becoming ill, decrease in demand for their products or the need to adjust work schedules and locations.

"This has been an extremely challenging time for our business owners as they adjust to a shifting landscape,” One Acadiana President and CEO Troy Wayman said. “One Acadiana is working diligently with our partners throughout the region to provide solutions, guidance and information to help navigate this difficult situation. But it will take more than just one organization — a solution for something like this will truly need to be a team effort."

At Bread & Circus Provisions, 258 Bendel Road, owner Manny Aguello had to let go most of his employees and adjust his menu. His crew has gone from 23 employees to just “five or six,” he said this week.

Like most pizza establishments during COVID-19, the take-out business has picked up. But it's not nearly enough.

“We’ve lost about 80 percent of our business from people not dining in,” he said. “Takeout has definitely picked up because that’s the only option available. We went from having a menu for lunch, dinner and brunch to just having a single menu for all service. We’re trying to slug it out and make the changes work for us.”

At Dean-O’s Pizza, takeout has also picked up, said owner Tim Metcalf, but not enough to overcome the loss from customers dining in. The company, which employs about 80 at both its Lafayette locations, hasn’t reduced its staff or cut salary but business overall remains down.

“We’re down a little bit over 50 percent,” Metcalf said. “But to-go is keeping our doors open. Local people are supporting us, and lunches are popular. We’re in a good position. We’ve been here almost 50 years, and it looks like we’ll survive. Hopefully with the warm weather coming we’ll flatten the curve and start to get some normalcy back in our life.”

Others surveyed are finding innovative ways to continue by increasing its ability to work remotely, expanding their online presence, adopting changes to operations or delivery and focusing more focus on sanitation and cleaning.

Like Rouses Markets and other grocery stores in the area, business at the 26 Pizza Hut locations in Acadiana has picked up, said Adam Diamond, CEO of ADT Pizza, the Connecticut-based company that bought the restaurants in 2018. The company had about a 10% increase in staff to its estimated 500 employees, some of whom were hired in hours.

Pizza chains have outperformed other chain restaurants nationwide, data shows.

“This past week it started to pick up, and we expect it to pick up going forward,” Diamond said. “We had actually added delivery in four stores in Lafayette in December, and those stores have really picked up. We’re open for business and putting our people to work. It’s either grocery stores or us (pizza restaurants). We’re trying to do the best we can to serve our community.”

Almost half of those surveyed were unsure how long their business could weather the impact of COVID-19. Many in the hotel/motel and tourism sector were hit hard quickly with several events cancelled, leaving one hotel to close and others to furlough most of their staffs.

Stuller, which employs 1,263 at its Lafayette facility, suspended operations but will continue to pay its employees. 

“LEDA is here to assist during this time of uncertainty when business owners are having to make tough decisions when it comes to their workforce; and many independent contractors, gig workers and self-employed individuals are not working,” said Gregg Gothreaux, LEDA president and CEO. “We are working together to get the most valuable commodity — information — to our business community and our workforce. Results from the business survey and the subsequent survey will help our organizations gauge where the most assistance is needed.”

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