By Jessica Easthope
Project Brunch knows how to set itself apart: the restaurant’s staff puts care and consideration into everything, especially how they treat their customers. But when the pandemic crushed New York City’s economy, they were the same as every other small business.
“Everyone’s been thrown into this same boat of uncertainty and financial stress and even emotional stress but our customers have been amazing; they all supported us,” said Jenna Mazza, the manager of Project Brunch, her family’s business.
After being forced to close one of their Staten Island locations during the pandemic, Project Brunch had another tough decision cooking.
Last week the New York City Council approved the COVID-19 Recovery Charge, allowing restaurants to add 10 percent to your food bill until indoor dining has been open for 90 days. The charge is designed to help restaurants earn back some of the money they lost, but Project Brunch said “no thanks.”
“Just like we’re feeling it personally as a restaurant, as a company, the stress of COVID-19, so is everyone else,” Jenna said. “And it would be against what we stand for to put even more on our customers, who we very much care about.”
Customers say the delicious food drew them in, but what keeps them coming back isn’t on the menu.
“We’re all in this together. The pandemic’s been very difficult on a lot of businesses and we have to support the places we love,” said Ellen Settani, a customer who has come to the restaurant every Tuesday since it opened in 2016.
“They’re caring about the customers first, so I have no problem supporting them all the way with this,” said George Finelli, another regular customer.
Even with the support of their customers, Project Brunch’s future is still uncertain. Indoor dining is just days away. and as the colder months make outdoor dining impossible, 25 percent capacity inside won’t cut it.
“We will not be able to survive with 25 percent capacity and 100 percent bills, the math doesn’t work out that way. Steps need to be taken to save the small businesses and save the culture of New York and our communities,” said Jenna.
Project Brunch is hoping to survive long enough to see business go back to normal. Until then, they can promise the menu will change, but their values will stay the same.