COVID-19 Has Taken a Bite Out of Restaurants

Restaurant owners brace for the slower, winter months

Restaurants have been hit hard this year. Coronavirus and the restrictions created to prevent the spread have forced many to change the way they do business. Some businesses began allowing outdoor seating, others found ways to ramp up their carryout orders and all have dealt with lower seating capacity indoors, which was mandated by the state.

What businesses face now is the winter months, which historically are known as the slower months. Businesses that relied on the outdoor seating to attract customers will also no longer have that option.

At Spratt’s Tavern in Hennepin, owner Jen Spratt said this fall and winter, she is going to start focusing on catering side of her business and providing deliveries to customers.

Business is always slower in the winter months until holiday parties begin, she said. But, this year Spratt is not banking on too many holiday get-togethers due to COVID.

As she keeps her eye on decisions being made in Springfield to tackle the pandemic and also on the number of cases in Putnam County, she will also launch a new type of service at her business.

Once or twice a month, she will be offering a real dining take-out experience that will include hot food on real plates served with real silverware at the diner’s home. The meal will come with everything one will need for dinner — drinks, cups, fixings and even a box to place all the dirty dishes back into for someone to pick back up when the meal is over.

Spratt said it will be a good change from the Styrofoam meals.

“I think people are sick of eating out of Styrofoam,” she said.

Kris Hall, owner of Kaddywampus Sports Grill in Granville, said she has been blessed by the customers who have supported her establishment during this difficult time.

The last few months have been challenging, but the community has been good to the business.

The slower winter months concern Hall, however. She said profit margins are not that great for a restaurant as it is and with food prices high and business down, it could put an even bigger strain on the restaurant.

While carry outs have helped keep the business going, Hall said it’s difficult to push the extras like drinks and desserts with the carryout option. Plus, many customers don’t leave a tip for the waitresses, which means less money for them.

Hall reminds customers that while the food wasn’t prepared and served inside the restaurant, it was still served in a container and prepared for eating. A tip for waitresses is still very much appreciated.

Jared Ortega and Tracy Fousekas, owners of Backwoods, a new restaurant in Mark, have faced an uphill battle since the beginning of the pandemic. Just when they were about to open their restaurant earlier this year, COVID hit and businesses were shutting down. The health department put a halt on allowing them to open.

Because they weren’t an establishment yet at that time, they also didn’t qualify for any relief or assistance.

“It hurt us and set us back far. It’s been a struggle to get to this point, but thank god we’re able to get to where we’re at right now,” Ortega said.

Within the last two months, Ortega and Fousekas have finally been able to open for carryout orders. The inside of their restaurant is still in the remodeling stages, but everything they’ve made so far will allow them to finished it by the of the this month.

The two made a big decision this past spring to move forward with their hopes and dreams, because ultimately they know deep down this is what they want to do for years to come.

“God is going to give you what you put into it and I’ve put by whole heart into this place. It’s going to be a success,” Ortega said.

The two stand behind their menu and are willing to face the hardships to fulfill their dream of being able to share their knack for cooking with the community.

Source: Putnam County Record