Researchers say family-run businesses may have some advantages surviving COVID-19 restrictions

Updated: May. 1, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Small, local family-run businesses, such as Brooks Sandwich House, are facing unique challenges to keep things going during COVID-19-related restrictions.

Still, researchers say there are ways they may have a leg up when it comes to surviving the pandemic.

“We work so closely with one another inside, in such cramped space, that, you know, safety’s No. 1," said David Brooks, owner of Brooks Sandwich House. "And I have to watch out for my crew, too.”

Brooks made the tough call to close the restaurant for six weeks, but now, he is getting ready to reopen the restaurant’s to-go window.

“I just made the decision, we have got to open back up because I’ve got employees, including my children," Brooks said. "They’re depending on this place, too.”

Family-run businesses, like Brooks Sandwich House, are the subject of a UNCC professor and his partner’s research study.

“It’s where most of our GDP comes from,” said Joe Astrachan, Emeritus Professor of Management at Kennesaw State University. “Once you take out government contributions GDP.”

Astrachan and Torsten Pieper, an Associate Professor of Management at UNCC, are studying the impact of COVID-19 on family-run businesses, large and small.

They believe these businesses may be more likely to survive.

“A family business that’s connected to its community does a much better job at interacting with the community, supporting the community, and in turn, the community supports it,” Astrachan said.

They say in the 2008 recession, family businesses were slower to lay off employees.

“Once the economy picked up again, they were in a much better position to hit the ground running again,” Pieper said. “Because they had all these smart people, and those people were extra loyal and grateful and worked extra hard to pay it back.”

The pair said family-run businesses may not need to rely on the banks as much as others.

“With the family name on the door, the family members are going, ‘We’ll actually not just not take our salaries, we’ll contribute capital to keep this thing alive,’” Astrachan said.

The ones that will struggle, they say, are those unable to work at all, that still have big bills like rent to pay.

“With the service business that can’t continue to operate, and they have high fixed expenses, meaning they have to pay them no matter what, they’re probably not going to survive,” Astrachan said.

Sadly, shutting down temporarily is nothing new for David Brooks.

His twin brother Scott was tragically murdered while opening their restaurant. Their doors were recently closed for two months before this most recent COVID-19-related closure.

“It didn’t hurt the second time so much because I kind of knew what to expect," Brooks said.

Pieper and Astrachan’s research study will survey family-run businesses across the world, and follow them for years.

The idea is to collect best practices and lessons to apply to whatever crisis would happen next.

Brooks Sandwich House will reopen for to-go orders on Monday.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.