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From carryout steaks to medical scrubs, here’s how Covid-19 impacts Tampa-St. Pete companies

Margie Manning



Test sites at the Mahaffey Theater and Tropicana Field are seeing robust testing.

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, Raymond James Financial has been busier than ever, with its top 10 trading days of all time all occurring in March.

Superior Group of Companies posted record sales for its lab coats, scrubs and other clothing worn by medical professionals.

Bloomin’ Brands successfully pivoted to 100 percent off-premise dining at its Outback Steakhouse and other casual dining chains.

Top executives at these local companies and others are telling the stories of how they have dealt with the pandemic on earnings calls reviewing the three months of operations that ended March 31. While the CEOs mostly put a positive spin on their experiences, there are still takeaways about their industry sectors and the broader economy.

Here’s a sample of what they have told analysts on conference calls.

David Deno

“We have tripled average off-premises sales for restaurants since the beginning of March. This is a testament to the strong affinity for brands and the decision to invest significantly over a number of years into building a robust delivery network to complement our takeout business. These outstanding off-premises results have allowed us to keep substantially all of our locations open during this time. The goal going forward is to keep a large part of the share gains we have seen in carryout and delivery.” — David Deno, CEO, Bloomin’ Brands (Nasdaq: BLMN), the Tampa-based restaurant company with four brands: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

William Johnson

“One of the outcomes of this crisis is likely to be an increased focus on ghost kitchens. Today, as a result of the pandemic, nearly every restaurant has been transformed into a ghost kitchen. The number of ghost kitchens in the U.S. is expected to increase between five times to 10 times by 2024 compared to today …  As the industry resets, more companies may decide to eliminate the dining room altogether to capitalize on longer-term off-premise trends.” — William Johnson, president and CEO, Welbilt (NYSE: WBT), a New Port Richey commercial food equipment manufacturer

Michael Benstock

“Our products such as isolation gowns, lab coats and scrubs are selling at an astonishing pace. In the last month, we booked in products worn by caregivers, what we normally would expect to book in a nearly four-month period of time, producing record sales via our traditional laundry distributor and retail brick and mortar sales channels as well as our retailer B2C internet sales channels. We also have supported our retail channel partners by implementing strategies to ease their burdens of operating their essential businesses. Additionally, our uniform sales force is reaching new customer prospects to offer critically needed personal protective equipment, or PPE.” — Michael Benstock, CEO, Superior Group of Companies (Nasdaq: SGC), headquartered in Seminole with divisions focused on uniforms and apparel, promotional products and call centers

Paul Reilly, chairman and CEO, Raymond James Financial

“During the quarter, we experienced unprecedented levels of client activity. For example, our top 10 trading days ever all occurred in March. We saw retail orders more than double, transaction volumes more than triple and institution volumes up seven times some days. Our ability to provide continuous service to our advisors and clients without any significant disruptions is a testament to the investments we’ve made in our technology and mobile apps over the last 10 years.” — Paul Reilly, chairman and CEO, Raymond James Financial (NYE: RJF), a St. Petersburg-based financial services firm

Howard Heckes

“During the past six weeks, people have spent a lot of time in their homes, and we believe that in the long term, the home comes out of this as a winner. Without diminishing the near-term tragedy of the pandemic, we need to remember that there will be better times ahead. No one knows how consumer demand will change as a result of Covid-19, but preferences will change and new needs will develop. As people stay home and rediscover the sanctuary a home provides, we plan to adapt to the ever-changing needs and to provide them with doors that do more.” – Howard Heckes, Masonite International (NYSE: DOOR), a Tampa company that designs, manufactures and distributes interior and exterior doors

Chuck Sykes

“It is important to note that work at home isn’t just replicating what you do in a brick-and-mortar environment as many of our clients are beginning to appreciate. Rather, work at home requires re-engineering the entire operational value chain, encompassing functions like recruiting, training, interaction management, performance management, workforce management and risk management. It is akin to transitioning a business model from a physical-first experience to a digital-first experience.” — Chuck Sykes, CEO, Sykes Enterprises (Nasdaq: SYKE), a call center and customer engagement headquartered in Tampa

David Dunkel

“We expect that the technical and professional disciplines will hold up well during this downturn, as technology professionals are more capable of effectively working remotely and the scarcity of higher-end skill sets in technology continues. We also believe that the current crisis has only strengthened the secular drivers of demand in technology, as companies assess their digital transformation efforts and evaluate geographical risk and positions and projects being supported internationally.” — David Dunkel, chairman and CEO, Kforce (Nasdaq: KFRC), a Tampa-based staffing agency

Paresh Patel

“Our insurance companies have received a few Covid claims, but we believe our exposure is very limited. We have also offered to defer some policyholder premium payments that are coming due. Homeowners insurance premiums are usually paid annually and in most cases, connected to our mortgage payment. We do not view premium collectability to be a significant issue at this time. Turning to Greenleaf, our Real Estate division, we are working with some tenants on the lease payments. Some of these tenants are restaurants, gyms and retail establishments, and they’ve been hit hard by the crisis. But keep in mind that most of our anchor tenants are grocery stores and a large bank, which is doing just fine.” — Paresh Patel, chairman and CEO, HCI Group (NYSE: HCI), based in Tampa and with operations in insurance, software development and real estate

John Forney

“Our company is built to thrive in the currently challenging operating environment. We have de minimis exposure to Covid-19 claims. And since we are based in a [catastrophe]-prone state, we are well practiced in remote operations. Kudos to our technology team and all our UPC employees who have made the transition so seamless for us. “ — John Forney, CEO, United Insurance Holdings (Nasdaq: UIHC), a property and casualty insurer headquartered in St. Petersburg


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