Pancakes and PPP Loans: Beloved McLean restaurants struggle to survive

Post-shutdown%2C+an+%27OPEN%27+sign+hangs+on+the+McLean+Family+Restaurant+storefront+implores+McLean+residents+to+dine-in+or+carry+out.+%0A%0ASecond+generation+members+of+the+Kapetanakis+family+stand+in+front%3A+Constance+%28left%29+and+Nick+%28right%29

Tess Weinreich

Post-shutdown, an ‘OPEN’ sign hangs on the McLean Family Restaurant storefront implores McLean residents to dine-in or carry out. Second generation members of the Kapetanakis family stand in front: Constance (left) and Nick (right)

Ali O'Brien and Christopher Kang

Rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning and heading straight to McLean Family Restaurant, or MFR, as the Potomac community calls it, or stopping by Madison Deli after school are staples of a Potomac experience. While Potomac students have missed these places more than ever during the COVID-19 shutdown, the restaurants themselves have been struggling to stay in business.

While students have had the luxury of bemoaning their excessive Zoom time, these McLean-favorite restaurants have been struggling to survive with drastically lowered revenue. When beloved local establishments like these suffer, so do the McLean families who own and run them. 

“COVID-19 has impacted us at McLean Family Restaurant dramatically with the closure of our dining room and a shift towards takeout and curbside only.” said Mr. Constance Kapetanakis of MFR, in an email interview. “Operating as takeout only has led food sales to be down 75% compared to this time a year ago.”.

Another Potomac favorite, Madison or ‘Mad’ Deli, has also experienced financial hardships.

“When the stay-at-home order was instituted by Governor Ralph Northam in March, we immediately saw a 90% drop in sales. While we have experienced fluctuations in the economy before, this was completely different. At the onset of the pandemic, I, like many others, couldn’t imagine and wasn’t prepared for the toll it would eventually take on Americans all across the nation,” said Mr. David Yang, owner of Madison Deli, via email.

The drop of sales, although the primary issue, is not the only obstacle restaurants have faced. COVID-19 has affected businesses around the country and some supplies chains have begun to dry up.  “I personally do the ordering and purchasing of supplies, and encountered several challenges, such as a shortage of lettuce (one of my suppliers alluded that California’s lettuce supply chain had been drastically cut therefore affecting the nation’s overall supply),” said Mr. Yang in an email interview. 

To help combat the economic challenges, both MFR and Madison Deli applied for, and received, loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to help cover expenses and pay employees. 

“I’m not sure if we would have been able to survive if the government hadn’t stepped in as quickly as it did. Due to the sales drop: I couldn’t take a paycheck every week, I had no choice but to reduce employee hours, and had to rely on loans and other aid to help pay the bills,” said Mr. Yang via email.

“We were lucky enough to receive funding from the PPP program to help us pay and retain our employees as well as cover rent and utilities for a few months so there was no need to lay off any employees,” said Mr. Kapetanakis.

Mr. Kapetanakis said, “Patience is key during this time because it is going to take a long time for restaurants and other businesses to fully recover… and we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of both our employees and customers while also providing fresh tasty meals.”

While many businesses are struggling with economic hardship, a ramification of the coronavirus, Mr. Yang struck a  hopeful note in the interview.

“Although this has been the most challenging time the business has ever encountered, I’ve personally been touched by how people have unified to work together. It has reminded me that we are all connected. We are all in this together – from our landlord and our suppliers, from our government to our local community, and my family to yours. Every day we hope that this pandemic will end soon and things to go back to normal!” said Mr. Yang.