While the hospitality industry has been decimated, five area eateries have made adaptations that have allowed them to survive during the pandemic.
Some have stepped up delivery and take-out, others have rethought their entire format. Here’s how a few of Wilton Manors’ favorite places have adapted.
Shawn Bombard, the owner of Courtyard Café, has seen a vast increase in the delivery business. “Before COVID we only used Uber Eats, since then we have added DoorDash and Grubhub.”
According to Bombard, deliveries account for one-third of his company’s income now, and he is looking to expand to-go sales since it is still at 50% capacity seating. He has been lucky enough to retain most of his staff and, by following CDC guidelines, they’ve managed to remain COVID free. Although he received some grant money, Bombard has had to take a loan to survive. He credits his staff working as a team to their ability to stay open.
Michael Connell, co-owner of The Pub, reports that although his restaurant business was in mandatory closure from March 18 through May 18, since then carry-out, although offered, is minimal. The mainstay of his business is those who dine onsite. “Outside sidewalk and back patio seating have become very popular since reopening. Daytime customers request outside seating nearly 50% of the time depending on weather conditions. In the evening, our outside seating is preferred by about one-third of our customers.”
While many businesses have had to cut back on staffing, Connell reports that enhanced protocols for customer and associate safety have necessitated the Pub hiring additional employees. “Our remarkable associates have been our greatest asset and our turnover has been minimal,” he reports.
One reason for that minimal turnover is the fact that The Pub held fundraisers for two months during closure to provide its furloughed employees with regular bi-weekly financial assistance. It also held two-holiday events at Thanksgiving and Christmas, donating a third of the funds from the dinner entrées to Poverello. The Pub won first place in Wilton Manors’ “Deck-the-Drive” holiday decoration contest and distributed double the $2,500 prize money to its employees.
Connell stresses: “During this worldwide pandemic, reducing the spread of COVID-19 requires every person and business to do their part. Prioritizing the protection of our associates and our customers is the ethical and moral thing to do. It's costly but just a ‘no-brainer’ decision! The Pub implemented, gladly retains and supports all the mitigation actions that the CDC and the county have recommended for businesses to safely operate.”
Glen Weinzimer, co-owner of Bona Italian Restaurant reports that carry-out and delivery now account for 40% of his business, as opposed to 25% pre-COVID. Although Bona has limited outdoor dining capacity, Weinzimer feels that it allows customers who are not ready to dine-in to have a feeling of safety.
Bona has also been able to retain its employees. According to Weinzimer, “When we first were hit with COVID and a shutdown, we transitioned some of our servers, to answering phones and helping with take-out orders. When we re-opened our server staff returned.”
The government support programs such as Payment Protection Plan have only helped so much, “It softened the blow, but have since used up the entire PPP. We have also taken an SBA loan which we are now deep into and is not forgivable.”
Even through the struggles, Bona maintained its Give Back Monday program, which gives 10% of the house back to local non-profits. According to Weinzimer, “Obviously our Mondays are not what they were pre-COVID. Bottom line, there is a need, and with the pandemic worse than it was when we initially shut down in March.”
Weinzimer echoes the sentiments of many, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, the vaccine will hopefully become more widely accessible now that several versions have been approved. It is our hope that by the summer of 2021 we will see a return to a new normal that will allow us to hug our friends and all to prosper. In the interim, we have all made it this far, we can certainly hold out a few more months. Ultimately, all lives matter and we need to consider our neighbors in all our decisions and keep everyone safe.”
We contacted more than a dozen eateries popular in our community and have included the responses from those that responded.