Hitting Pause

Dear friends,

With a heart full of sadness and concern, but also enormous gratitude for all of you who support us, I need to let you know that we have temporarily closed Texas French Bread’s bistro service. We are taking this action for the following reasons:

  1. Testing for the coronavirus has not been widely available to date. As a result, no one can accurately assess the risks that we run by continuing our restaurant service.

  2. We don't know how many people have contracted the virus in ATX but do know that we now have confirmed cases of the highly contagious disease within the UT community.

  3. We don’t believe it to be appropriate to continue business as usual running a busy restaurant when the protocols we have in place may prove inadequate. We have limited tools at our disposal - regular hand washing, sanitizers (when available), and sending folks home if they feel ill being the most frequently cited.

  4. At this time there is no effective prevention/treatment for covid-19 and for some people the illness can be deadly. Our elderly and our healthcare providers are on the front lines and may stand to suffer dramatic harm. If on the other hand, we act decisively and collectively, such harm can almost certainly be mitigated.

  5. This situation has the potential to erupt into a full fledged public health emergency. Until we know more, I think it is incumbent on us to prioritize minimizing the possible damage that may be headed our way.

  6. My sincerest hope is that I am overreacting and that within a week or two the data will suggest that we should all get back to work.

This has been an excruciating call. This afternoon, I met with our staff in the TFB garden and gave them the bad news. The only shred of a silver lining I could offer them is that TWC has indicated they will be expediting unemployment benefits for these kinds of situations given the current environment. I’m afraid that’s cold comfort for our 50 or so staff members who were laid off today and sent home to await further developments.

Unfortunately, the incontrovertible truth is that a busy restaurant kitchen is not and cannot be made to function like a high-tech clean room. The most modern of them tend to be sweaty, crowded places where workers breathe on each other and toil in tight quarters. Under normal circumstances, the risks imposed by such proximity are reasonable. These are not normal circumstances.

In my view - we need to trust what scientists and public health professionals are telling us. And what they’re saying is - hit the collective pause button now. We need to stop shaking hands, stay 6 feet apart, and limit physical contact with each other. If we bite the bullet, go home now and slow things way down, the chances of emerging from this nightmare storm on a sunnier day are better than they might otherwise be.

Importantly, this does not mean that we don’t continue to support each other and share love, friendship, and a spirit of community. It does, however, mean that we need to use our words more and learn how to do these things from a distance of uh... no less than 6 feet. Ok, heard.

I think though, that we also have a responsibility to continue to help feed our community if at all possible. As it stands now, our plan is to keep a skeleton crew employed to produce a few baked goods. We plan to offer these breads and pastries in our garden on a limited schedule this week. We will be there tomorrow from 8:30am - 11:30am. Please stop by and please stay tuned for updates.

If the steps I’ve outlined should start to appear inadequate based on the available information filtering in - we will stop all baking activity.

On the other hand, if we find that our approach seems safe, we plan to introduce a subscription service for baked goods in the days ahead and we may try putting out a limited menu of prepackaged, to-go lunch items. We want you to have access to bread, pastries, and if possible, a sandwich. That said, we’re taking this thing one day at a time and as we’ve all seen in recent days, things can change very rapidly.

In summation - any continued operations at TFB will be subject to our ongoing assessment that such activity will not contribute to the worsening of this emerging public health situation.

We hope that in the coming days, reliable authorities can tell us with a degree of confidence what the risks are and are not. At present, available information is fuzzy, or worse, contradictory.

Ideally, everyone in our industry follows suit and we suffer this pain together and we stomp the life out of this virus and stop new cases in their tracks.

I don't know when we will reopen, but we will. I simply could not in good conscience, put people in close quarters eating and drinking together and think we're not going to cross contaminate each other.

Carissa and I send each of you our deepest love and gratitude, and we hope to see you back in the restaurant very soon. We sit in agreement that all of us find some respite from the relentless anxiety that has been unleashed, that the afflicted may be healed, and that we all emerge from this safe and healthy.