Sergio Bellmónt handles the stress, frustration and complexities of owning a restaurant, using a day-to-day approach, even in times of government lockdown. Hard? Very. Is there hope? For Sergio and his wife and partner Claudia, yes, there is always hope.
The husband-wife owners of Bellmónt Spanish Restaurant of Coral Gables, Fla. have been surviving on a combination of curbside and takeout business, a government Paycheck Protection loan, and the good graces of all manner of creditors. And especially with the shared strength of family and community support.
“I am convinced that things are going to get better,” says Sergio Bellmónt. “And that at some point there will be a progressive improvement of conditions, hopefully soon.”
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Sergio discusses the restaurant he and his wife built nearly seven years ago.
BB: Please tell me about the shutdown at Bellmónt Spanish Restaurant.
BSR: The Bellmónt Spanish Restaurant was first shut down on March 16. And we went to a takeout and curbside model right away. Then we faced a second shutdown in July, before we were fully re-opened, due to a spike in cases in Miami-Dade. That shutdown remained effective until September 1st.
This is my livelihood and my wife’s. We have five children, four boys and a girl. And the revenue from the restaurant is how we survive, paying for our food, their education, and all other expenses.
Our sales dropped 85 percent after the shutdown, and we’ve had to make a lot of decisions so we can try to survive.
BB: How have you survived the financial hit of the government shutdown?
BSR: We’ve had to make some hard decisions. We have gone on deferred payment plans with our suppliers, utility companies and the landlord. We applied for and received a Payment Protection Plan loan from the government, which helped us pay our employees and rent. But those funds only stretched 16 weeks, and we really could use another stimulus payment from the government because we have not been able to bring back revenue.
BB: Did the option for outdoor dining option help you at all?
BSR: Outdoor dining is not an option this time of year in Florida. It’s too hot and rainy. We are just now coming into the outdoor-dining season now, and a lot of restaurants haven’t made it.
I look around our area in Coral Gables and can’t believe I’m seeing restaurants that were around for 20 or 25 years closing their doors for good. But when you don’t have enough revenue to offset costs, there are few options.
BB: How are you hanging onto hope through these times?
BSR: I’m originally from Spain, and I’ve been thinking about my Dad. He survived both the civil war of Spain and WWII and went on to have a successful and fulfilling life. He made it through. Remembering his story helps me have faith that we can get through this too.
And though we saw very little improvement in revenue in April and May I am hopeful that with the cooler, nicer weather, our customers will return.
BB: How have you stayed in touch with your customers?
BSR: We’ve sent email blasts to our customers to keep them up to date on where we stand. And we’ve kept our original menu of their favorites, but switched to curbside, takeout and delivery. Our paella is very popular and we’ve kept that on the menu, as well as our famous suckling pig.
BB: How do you stay positive?
BSR: For me it’s a matter of resistance. We have to hold up as long as we can and do as much as we can to survive. Someday the events of 2020 will become a point in history, and this will be over someday. And also, we have felt a tremendous support from our local customers and neighbors. That’s a huge support and it keeps us going. — Bellmónt Spanish Restaurant uses Boxerbrand’s Linen Naturals in their table presentation. Thank you!