Local restaurants in California have had to make adjustments with how they serve costumers due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Restaurants are among the handful of business types that can remain open during the statewide stay-at-home order enacted by Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month. Missouri's current statewide order remains in affect until April 24.
Nic-Nac Cafe owner Jackie Heather said the restaurant has switched to doing carry out only and employees take the food out to the customers' vehicles. Heather said customers seem to appreciate that restaurant workers take the food to them, rather than having to exit their cars.
However, the adjustments they've had to make have been difficult for the restaurant, said Heather, especially when it comes to employees and their hours.
"It has been difficult because business is way down," Heather said. "As far as employees working, I have had to cut their hours. A lot of them are not getting very many hours. It is hard on them as well as hard on me to be able to take in enough to pay the ones that are working and then try to buy groceries and stuff, too."
When it comes to day-to-day operations of the restaurant, Heather said things are very different as compared to before the outbreak started.
"We don't have nearly the customers that we had before," Heather said. "I am going to say probably a fourth of the business we had before. I am trying to hang in there, but it is hard to do, and it is getting harder. When you are a small business, I think it is harder on a small business than it is on a corporation or a line of fast food places. We are not really a fast food place so I mean we don't have a drive-thru. I think that makes a difference — even though we are carrying it out to them and stuff, they have to call in to order what they want."
Nic-Nac is not the only restaurant that has to deal with challenges due to the outbreak. Burgher Haus owner Drew Robertson said his restaurant has also had to switch to curbside and drive-thru for now. However, Robertson said the customers are happy the restaurant is still operational, in part due to the strength of the surrounding community.
"The thing about California is that everybody sticks together here. We are a strong community," Robertson said. "People are still coming, and they are going through the drive up, too."
Robertson said that he has seen some customers getting frustrated with the new normal as the state continues to tackle the pandemic.
"From what I get talking to the people at the (drive-thru) window and stuff too, there are a lot of people frustrated, I think, with the way everything has been," Robertson said. "They understand that we have to do this, but it is starting to get frustrating for a lot of customers."
Robertson said that sales have been affected by the outbreak, and it's a "hard time to make money."
"From a sales perspective, we are probably cut in half on last year's hill versus this year on a comparison — maybe a little bit less than half," Robertson said.
The adjustments have been difficult for Burgher Haus' employees, as well.
"All the people and their hours lost and us not being able to give the hours that we are used to here at the business kind of hurts," Robertson said. "We can't really go anywhere at this point. We had a lot of plans to innovate the restaurant, kind of take this restaurant into the future a little bit this year, we had to put a hold on a lot of things we are doing. It is affecting probably every aspect of the business, too."
The restaurant is not able to open its buffet, which Robertson said accounts for a large majority of its business and sales. However, he said curbside and drive-thru customers have increased. He said Burgher Haus is taking in a little over double in sales at the window and call-in orders.
"People are looking at this new avenue of they are going to have to do the window, and they are just adapting a little bit," Robertson said.
Robertson said the outbreak has changed everything when it comes to the restaurant.
"All of our operations, the way we do things everyday, are 100 percent affected," Robertson said. "We have to put more resources on the window, we have zero resources on buffet and inside staffing, our entree items (and) our made to order items have went up. Let's just put it this way — every system in this restaurant has changed in some way, shape or form. Whether it be usages go up because now we do window, some usages are at zero. It is just less staff on per shift. The managers and stuff, too — now, we don't have as much management on during shifts. Everything is completely changed."