Coronavirus

Versailles had to lay off 400 over coronavirus. Here’s why Sedano’s is hiring them.

Sedano’s Supermarket already carries the Versailles company’s Cuban coffee. Now it will carry its laid-off employees, as well.

The two iconic South Florida businesses announced a partnership Thursday that will employ up to 400 full-time and part-time workers laid off from Versailles, La Carreta and the group’s 12 other restaurants. Miami-Dade County ordered all restaurants closed to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, forcing layoffs across the restaurant industry.

“Our families have known each other for years. We’re friends. So it’s a natural fit,” Valls Group president Felipe Valls told the Miami Herald.

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This week, South Florida’s independent restaurant industry unemployment rate skyrocketed to cataclysmic levels. In one case, Miami chef Michael Schwartz had to cut all but six of his approximately 460 employees across his nine-entity restaurant-catering company.

Not even Valls’ family was immune. His daughter, Gabriella Valls, was one of 2,000 employees laid off from Danny Meyer’s New York restaurant empire this week. She was cut from the high-end The Modern restaurant in New York City and is returning to Miami to help with the family business.

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Meanwhile, grocery stores are scrambling to hire more employees.

Sedano’s has a surging demand as grocery stores become all important, with restaurants restricted to only takeout with curbside pick- up. Sedano’s hopes to add 15-20 displaced Valls employees to each of its 35 stores, from cleaning staffs to cashiers, stock clerks and cooks at its to-go counters. The companies share the same ad agency, Republica Havas, which helped bring the two together. And Sedano’s carries La Carreta brand Cuban coffee in its stores.

“We’re struggling just to keep up with demand,” said Javier Herran, Sedano’s chief marketing officer. “We needed the help, so this is mutually beneficial.”

Consider the employees potentially on loan, Valls said, as restaurants await a chance to reopen. He said payroll alone costs his company $1 million a week, and with no income, there was no choice but to cut about 300 hourly workers from the 2,200-person company. They closed their Spanish restaurant Casa Juancho, turned to takeout and delivery at their other restaurants, and are running their airport locations with a skeleton crew.

“The losses are tremendous,” Valls said.

When restaurants reopen, Valls hopes the employees will come back for their old jobs.

“When the stores come back, we’re going to need them,” Valls said. “We want each of them to know that their jobs will be waiting for them once this crisis concludes.”

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