By TRP Staff
While restaurants can be open as essential businesses during the ongoing pandemic, social distancing orders have meant all have had to close their dining rooms. For locally owned dining establishments, that has led many to offer carryout and delivery service while others have opted to temporarily close.
Three Rivers Publishing reached out to numerous restaurant owners in the area to see how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses. The following are some of their responses. Watch for more in the coming weeks.
“Frisco's Grill and Pub in Cuba remains open, but only for curbside to go and delivery, Tuesday through Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.,” said co-owner Ben White. “We are doing both carryout curbside and offering delivery with no delivery fee. Our menu remains the same, with the exception of entrees. The only two entrees we have available are the chicken Toni and the catfish plate. We have also begun offering family style meals, and typically have a special family style meal every day. Customers are encouraged to call us and inquire what the special is, or check out our Facebook page. We also launched an online ordering system through Square, customers can access it through our website www.friscosgrillandpub.com.”
Frisco's employed about 27 residents of Crawford County before the pandemic hit.
“We were able to retain the majority of our back of house staff, but with reduced hours,” said White. “Unfortunately, we had to temporarily lay off about three-quarters of the front of house staff, as we only need two front of house members to manage the to-go operations. We have retained nine back of house employees, and four front of house employees, totaling 13 team members.”
Employees that had to be laid off were done so on just a temporary basis. As soon as Frisco’s can become fully operational, they will be called back onto the staff.
“When we had to implement layoffs, we provided resources and support for the team members to file for unemployment immediately,” said White. “I check in with them regularly to make sure they're okay, and that they aren't hungry. We've made a commitment to them that if they need anything, they are to contact us directly. (Co-owner) Jimmy (West) and I still view them as members of our team, so if they're hungry, in a bad place, or just need to talk, we're there for them.”
White estimated Frisco’s has lost between 60 and 70 percent of its business. To help in their recovery, the restaurant has applied for assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
“We have worked with bank lenders to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, one of the new SBA offerings,” White said. “We have also applied for an emergency economic relief loan through the SBA. Jimmy and I are hopeful that these funds will be disbursed quickly, and when they are, we are able to find creative ways of bringing back our team members who are temporarily laid off.”
White said that, while the past few weeks have been hard, Frisco’s has been getting some great support from the community.
“We've got some of the best customers on the planet. Crawford County has rallied in their support, and care for the entire Frisco's team. We really value the huge uptick in engagement with us via social media, as it has helped us continue to feel connected,” said White. “Jimmy has been monitoring commodities that the community has been short on, and has been able to deliver on some of these items—yeast, flour, and toilet paper. Customers seem to have really appreciated us being able to provide this based on their feedback. We've always had a great relationship with our friends over at Riviera Maya, and that relationship has only strengthened as this crisis has unfolded. We've shared resources, and swapped meals regularly to keep our spirits up. The playful banter, and encouragement has helped get us through this.”
White said he wants the community to know that Frisco’s is here to stay.
“We're going to get through this, and we're very excited for the day when we can reopen the dining room and pub for full service,” he said. “In the meantime, we're doing some serious deep cleaning, and other projects that we've just put off to keep ourselves busy. Jimmy continues to think creatively about ensuring members of the Crawford County community have access to quality food product. In the near future, we'll be launching barbecue meal kits for individuals to take home. We're also brainstorming some ways to engage our customers virtually. We're thinking about a virtual happy hour in our future.
“The front of house team works diligently in ensuring that exceptionally high standards of cleanliness are maintained in the service area. We do not take the trust you place in us to prepare your food during these difficult times lightly,” added White. “Rachel, Leah, Adam and Bre are the front of house staff that have been engaging with our guests during this time. They are very grateful for the community’s signs of appreciation through tipping. The back of house team members are Kenny, David, Katlynne, Rachel, John, Lexi, Angie and Daniel. These dedicated employees work just as hard to ensure that proper food handling practices are maintained and the highest quality product is sent home with you. They appreciate the community’s patronage, which keeps them employed at a job they enjoy.”
“We have closed our St. James taproom,” owner Josh Stacy said. “First, this location is built off of a tourism model that is currently not sustainable. We have three company-owned retail locations that you can purchase product from: the St. James taproom, the St. James Winery tasting room, and the Rolla brewpub. These locations are very close to one another and share the same customer base. In an effort to stay focused on the customer and the products we produce, we tried our best to re-deploy as many of the employees as we could into other parts of the business.”
The St. James Winery tasting room has remained open for curbside pickup and online ordering and shipping. The Rolla brewpub is open for curbside pickup and delivery Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Stacy said the St. James location will reopen once social distancing protocols are lifted. The Rolla location is currently serving a limited menu of pizza and salads, as well as some daily specials.
As with many businesses operating during this time, staffing has been affected.
“Before the pandemic, we employed 35 full- and part-time staff members between both our taprooms. This does not include our production staff, six employees. We have been able to keep our entire production staff, unfortunately we were only able to keep 10 of our retail staff,” Stacy said.
The business has taken steps to help those employees affected during the change in business operations.
“We have offered them additional pay and work very closely with each of them to file for unemployment and worked with them individually to make sure that they were able to survive the gap in pay,” Stacy said.
Business revenues are also being drastically affected as there is less revenue coming in due to the closure of the St. James location and limited access to the other facilities.
“In March, we lost about 56 percent of our revenue. We anticipate that number to increase as we move through April,” Stacy said. He added the business has applied for Small Business Administration loans, but is awaiting a response.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been most humbling. I have always looked at them as part of our family, and the actions and support that they have shown to not only the business, but in particular to the staff, have left me to believe that they feel the same about the brewery,” he said.
“We have adapted our business model to fit the new norm. We know that customer behavior and buying will be forever changed by these events and we must continue to adapt and meet their needs. We feel like we will come out as a much stronger company on the other side of this,” Stacy said.
RICH’S FAMOUS BURGERS
Rich’s Famous Burgers in Steelville is still open and is not only serving customers, but is also giving back to the community. Last Thursday, the restaurant offered free meals to first responders in Steelville and Cuba, and has offered to provide meals to the staff of Steelville Senior Living this Thursday.
The burger restaurant located on the corner of the three-way stop on Main Street is open for carry out, delivery and curbside meal service every day of the week, but open hours have been decreased. Currently, they are open Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Rich’s is also still providing all menu items, except that breakfast will only be served on Fridays. Full menus can be found on their website at richsfamousburgers.com and you can follow them on Facebook for updates about specials. You can call ahead to order at 573-775-8888.
Owner Jason Cusick reported they’ve had to reduce staff from 12 employees to nine since the pandemic began, and said they’ve lost half of their business. He reported they are working on getting assistance to help with payroll expenses.
“Now is the time everybody needs to help each other out,” Cusick said. “It’s easier to offer help when everything is going well; when you have to make a sacrifice to help others, it is felt more and appreciated more. We will keep doing everything we can to help our community who has been there for us to get through this.”
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