Ford Fry’s restaurants shutter all operations until April

Credit: Becky Stein

Credit: Becky Stein

Ford Fry’s Rocket Farm Restaurants, one of the city’s largest and fastest-growing dining groups, has shut down service at all locations through mid-April as the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of abating.

The Atlanta-based company had offered take-out services at a handful of restaurants, including four metro locations of the Tex-Mex concept Superica, No. 246 in Decatur and Little Rey on Piedmont Road. But fears of COVID-19 infections forced Rocket Farm to take more drastic steps.

“For the safety of our people, guests and communities, we have made the heart-wrenching decision to shut down all operations and quarantine ourselves for 14 days,” Toby Franklin, chief operating officer for Rocket Farm, said in an emailed statement. “We feel we have a moral and civic duty to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The closure took effect Thursday and affects all its restaurants, including King and Duke, St. Cecilia, the Optimist and the steakhouse Marcel. The restaurants will be closed until April 13.

Earlier this month, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered all restaurants in the city to close in-person dining. The ban also impacted bars, private clubs, fitness centers and movie theaters, among other venues.

The restaurant and hospitality sector has been hammered by coronavirus-related closures, forcing thousands of people out of work and threatening many restaurants with the potential for permanent closure. About 300,000 people work for restaurants in metro Atlanta, with an average hourly pay rate of $9.37 when including fast-food outlets, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Georgia restaurants were on track to generate about $25 billion in total revenue in 2020 before the coronavirus forced the vast majority of restaurants to close, said Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Restaurants of every stripe have shuttered or scale back to take-out operations. The Varsity in downtown Atlanta closed its dining rooms, Chick-Fil-A shifted all service to drive-through lanes and Waffle House closed more than 300 outlets. High-end restaurants have also closed or scaled back to take-out only service, including Bacchanalia in West Midtown and Kimball House in Decatur.

Since the Houston native Fry opened JCT Kitchen in 2007, Rocket Farm has rapidly gained popularity and swiftly expanded. The company now operates 17 locations nationwide, including restaurants in Charlotte, Nashville and Houston.