Speaking to Bloomberg, Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group operates more than 20 restaurants in the US, said he expects his dining rooms to remain closed for the foreseeable future, saying he has no interest in reopening them while physical and social distancing measures are needed.
“We won’t be welcoming guests into our full-service restaurants for a very long time—probably not until there’s a vaccine,” he said.
“There is no interest or excitement on my part to having a half-full dining room while everyone is getting their temperature taken and wearing masks, for not much money.
“It’s very frustrating, but it’s the only safe way to go.”
While Meyer is hopeful he will be able to eventually reopen all of his restaurants, which include New York city stalwarts Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café, he does not guarantee it, particularly if he has to consider a 50% reduction in capacity.
“It does work for fast-casual and fine-casual; they never depended on you sitting in their restaurant, anyway,” he said.
"But places that have to worry about maître d’s and bartenders and florists and linens are in trouble.
“As soon as you start racking up those fixed costs, you can’t do it at 50% revenue.”
Meyer's sentiments echo what has been said by some restaurateurs in the UK, such as Jeremy King of Corbin & King; and Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett.
Writing in the Corbin & King newsletter earlier this month, co-founder King said that reopening one of the group’s restaurants during a time when social distancing is necessary would be “impossible and implausible”.
“Chris [Corbin] and I always had as our guiding light the premise that we opened restaurants we would like to go to,” he wrote.
"I am afraid I certainly have no interest in going to a place where I am sitting in isolation, surrounded by Perspex screens and served by someone in a mask and gloves – where’s the fun in that?
“Restaurants are generally social hubs which depend on the conviviality of community and we need to understand this.
“One thing I do know for sure is that when we do return Social Distancing in a restaurant is impossible and implausible - I think that people are beginning to realise that.”
Beckett also believes that opening restaurants under social distancing rules could be damaging for the sector.
“My view is that if politicians open bars and restaurants at a time when they also think everyone has got to stay two metres away from each other and they have to wear masks and there has to be perspex screens, I think they will do long-term damage to the industry because the perception will stick that restaurants are not a safe place to be,” he says.
“We’ve got to get through that bit unopen.”