One of the restaurant executives who was part of the roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday was Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer. He spoke with Channel 2 anchor Jorge Estevez shortly after the vice president left.
“It was a really special experience for our company and our people to host the vice president and the governor in our office," Ehmer said. "The Secret Service was amazing. They just came in and ran the show for a day and a half.
“There were a fair amount of protocols, most of the people were wearing masks," he continued. "The people on the panel were not so we could talk. It was set up appropriately.”
Estevez asked Ehmer what they discussed during the roundtable, specifically if it is time to move on to Phase 4 and a new normal.
“I don’t think anybody’s in a hurry to get out of the phase we’re in now," Ehmer replied. "Our job is to make our guests, our employees, our people comfortable in that environment. We had that in common with all of the restaurant that were there. We care about our guests and really care about our customers.”
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“One of the news items that came out of your meeting was talking about the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, and having to pay it back. Did you guys get into that and what did you discuss?” Estevez asked Ehmer.
“We didn’t get any PPP funds, but most people in the restaurant industry did get them and they were a lifeline for those restaurants to stay alive. So there was conversation about the PPP funds and how they needed more time to use those funds to get their people back,” Ehmer said. “I have a lot of friends in the restaurant industry and I know this is a big, big deal for them.”
“What do you think the vice president got out of talking to you and others about Georgia and our restaurants?” Estevez asked Ehmer.
“There was an appreciation for ... the leadership in the state and Gov. (Brian) Kemp giving businesses the opportunity to show that we deserve a chance to begin to introduce all of the practices into our business and provide a safe environment to invite our customers to come back and do business with us,” Ehmer said. “We think restaurants are uniquely positioned to help lead this because we are so diligent about sanitizing and serving safe food, and the practices we have inside our restaurants.
Ehmer said he thought that restaurants being back open have helped some people have a sense of security that it’s safe to eat out again.