How Our Family-Owned Restaurant is Coping with COVID-19
This blog is being posted on behalf of xtraCHEF’s Marketing Intern, Kali Masciangelo.
Hi, I’m Kali, xtraCHEF’s Marketing Intern. I currently study Marketing at Temple University and am looking forward to graduation in May 2021. I chose xtraCHEF for my internship so I could learn more about the industry that I love and am already very close to.
For as long as I can remember, my dad has owned and operated Savona Restaurant in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania, a suburb right outside of Philadelphia. It’s an Italian restaurant specializing in seafood with an extensive wine selection. When I was younger, I thought that running a restaurant was easy: people are always hungry, so you cook the food and bring it to them, right? I learned over time, and through many years working at Savona, that it’s really not that simple.
It wasn’t always easy growing up with my dad in the industry. People usually comment to me, “I bet the food you have at home is amazing.” What they don’t realize is that, as cool as it is to have a parent that owns a restaurant, running a family-owned restaurant comes with a lot of challenges — including the fact that my dad was always cooking at the restaurant and rarely, if ever, home to cook for me! I didn’t see my dad much while I was growing up because he was at the restaurant before I woke up and came home after I was in bed.
As I got older, the restaurant became more of a family affair. My dad works in the kitchen, my brother works the valet stand, and I’m on the floor. It’s the place where we’re able to spend the most time together. Our work and shared experiences operating the restaurant bond us together in special ways that only other families who run businesses together would understand. In fact, I spend more time with my dad now than I was ever able to during my childhood.
Even though I’m a server, my job can be pretty different during any given service. While some nights drag, other nights are so busy that I’m moving non-stop for more than 8 hours. Remembering the status and needs of each table takes a lot of mental focus, and being on my feet for so long is physically exhausting.
Working long hours has given me a better understanding for why my dad wasn’t around very much for my childhood, too. I’m now missing out on my family’s events and holiday celebrations, because I’m helping other families gather and celebrate at the restaurant.
Luckily, the restaurant staff has become an extended family to me. All of us are in the trenches together to make sure that customers enjoy their experience with us. Plus, I get to enjoy the amazing food that I’ve missed out on at home!
How We’re Coping Through COVID-19
With the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re dealing with a lot of unanswered questions. When can we reopen for dine-in service? Will people even want to gather in restaurants? Will things ever completely go back to normal?
Right now, we’re doing what we can to keep our doors open. Thankfully, the restaurant hasn’t had to lay off any hourly staff, and servers and cooks are being rotated through the schedule. Staff on salary have been working almost every day.
My restaurant family has taken on jobs they’ve never done before. Servers like me have become delivery drivers, and managers are running takeout orders to cars. The changes have even hit the kitchen — our pastry chef has shifted to making pizzas.
We’re also using this as a rare opportunity to fix up the restaurant. With no sit-down service, we can fix broken tables and repaint walls, giving an opportunity for our hourly workers to make some extra money.
As a small fine dining restaurant, it’s been a challenge to shift to takeout and delivery. We’re not really trained to handle the capacity of orders coming in, and we’re still trying to find the best way to manage scheduled orders as new orders come in.
Because of this new model, we’re seeing lower sales. However, it’s important that we stay open not only to support our staff, but also our customers. Our regulars have been extremely generous by ordering delivery and takeout, tipping extra, and promoting us on social media.
Seeing familiar faces and warm smiles during deliveries and pickups helps keep us going through all of the uncertainty. I’m reminded every day why my dad owns a restaurant, and why I enjoy it as well: to offer people a sense of community, in both good times and bad.
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting your restaurant operations? Reach out to us at COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org to tell your story.