Chef Omar Anani of Saffron De Twah was early to adopt new measures to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Michigan. But today, the James Beard-nominated restaurant will close its doors indefinitely in Detroit.
Last Wednesday, chef Anani lept into action at his small, Eater Award-winning restaurant on Detroit’s east side. An experienced food truck operator, Anani scaled back service to carryout-only with plans to expand into delivery as well. However, the transition coupled with the increased social distancing measures in Michigan has crippled his business.
Anani says he was unable to find delivery drivers to work with his business on short notice. Meanwhile, sales were anemic. While on a normal Tuesday the restaurant might expect to do $1,500 in business, today it earned less than $80 in sales. The decline in business in addition to issues with employees who can no longer get to work because of the March 17 suspension of DDOT bus services (bus service will be restored at 3 a.m. on March 18) prompted Anani to rethink his plans to stay open. “We are shutting it down today,” he says.
A year ago, Anani says he was seriously considering getting out of the food industry altogether but the tremendous response to his restaurant and his recent marriage changed his mind. “Everything was looking amazing. Then all of this happened,” he writes in a message to Eater. “I cried while making this decision. But god works in mysterious ways.”
Anani plans to start “working behind the scenes on aid for people.”
Michigan issued an executive order on March 16, closing down all bars and restaurants for dine-in service. While some businesses are attempting to stay open with skeleton crews for carryout and delivery, many have made the difficult decision to lay off workers and shut down for the duration of the crisis — or possibly forever.