TWINSBURG — When dine-in areas of restaurants were forced to close by the state due to the pandemic, local eateries were forced to either adopt a new or elevated model of delivery, pickup or curbside service to find another way to stay in business or close their doors with hopes that dine-in would be allowed again in the near future.
Paul D’Angelo of Casa D’Angelo’s, 7995 Darrow Road, said that his establishment has seen "a pretty good takeout and delivery business." (https://www.dangelositalian.com/)
"Of course I miss my customers, and the dining room is empty," D’Angelo said. He added that D’Angelo’s never had much takeout business in the past. "I think we picked up a lot of new business mainly because people don’t have other options. They can’t go out, they can’t sit in a dining room. It’s helped us in a way. We’d prefer to be open but we’ll take what people we can get."
The restaurant has been in business for nearly 16 years, but has taken a financial hit, particularly with private parties, D’Angelo said.
"We had a lot of parties on site. We can’t do that now. But when one door closes, another opens. I don’t think we would have seen the people we are seeing otherwise."
On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced a schedule for a reopening of some businesses; the businesses did not include restaurants, nor a timetable as to when eateries may again have dine-in guests. D’Angelo said he did not anticipate dine-in would be allowable until at least June — but added that might be for the best.
"I’m hoping to see some sort of coherent plan," D’Angelo said. "As far as an opening of Ohio restaurants. I want everyone to be safe, but I want to see some coherent ‘here is what we have, here is what we want to do.’ I don’t want to be irresponsible. We want people to stay safe. We really can’t wait to see everybody again, but we understand that people want to feel at ease before coming back in. We don’t want to be so anxious to open that it would risk people, we want people to come in because they feel safe and comfortable."
When the restaurant can open again for dine-in, D’Angelo said he already has some measures in place and has done some preparation work. One is to spray a polymer which is supposed to repel viruses and bacteria onto the tables and other surfaces.
"We have hand sanitizer in the dining room," D’Angelo said. "We will use gloves if it’s mandated, but unless they are changed all the time they are not as effective as a lot of people think they are, from my research. But we will do whatever is mandated. My personal feeling is when we open, it is going to be difficult for everyone. It’s going to be scary. I don’t think business is going to come roaring back through the door. I think it will take time."
Ed Hoegler, who co-owns Mavis Winkles at 8870 Darrow Road with his wife Tammy, said he’s noted a decrease in business since March. (www.maviswinkles.com)
"Generally speaking, we’ve had some days that were going to be strong for us, like Friday fish fries," Hoegler said. "But now that those are over, for Lent, we’ve seen a definite drop. The novelty has worn off."
Still, Hoegler said he was grateful for the community support Mavis Winkles has received.
"Our customers are great, they are bringing business to us," Hoegler said. "More than 60 packs of food going out to families tonight from one business. We can’t wait to see them back."
Doing curbside pickup has posed some challenges, Hoegler said.
"To do this much longer will be hard," he said. "It’s a difficult situation."
Hoegler said that the payroll protections put in place "really doesn’t help much."
"There are a lot of fixed costs," he said. "There’s utilities, rent, etc. But we don’t have the income coming in. We can’t do this much longer. While payroll protection is good, there’s not a lot of meat on that bone for us. Our revenue has been shut off, but we have high overhead. The to-go containers are expensive. One issue is here, we make money through beverages. I make the money from burgers, but I really make money from the beer from those burgers."
Third-party delivery companies are "a double-edged sword," Hoegler added.
"They had been taking 30 percent chunk," Hoegler said. "Now, they have dialed back. There are some inherent problems. Last week, we had issues when their website went down. We have some irate customers. From my perspective, they are very difficult to troubleshoot with. They are people sitting in a cubicle or their basement. I’m sympathetic, business has increased for him by 100 percent, but there have been issues. I got a call from one old lady who told me ‘I didn’t get my food.’"
Hoegler said he imagines that once restaurants can reopen their dining rooms, it will be at reduced capacity, perhaps only about 50 percent.
"The phrase we keep hearing is ‘days to come,’" Hoegler said. "The sooner we can get information, the better we can get customers back in a safe way. The governor will have to have a good marketing stragegy, after customers have been told to stay home. How is governor going to unwind this?"
Dan Wyman, who owns Fresh Start at 9810 Ravenna Road, said he decided to close his restaurant temporarily after attempting curbside and pickup service for about a week.
"We only do breakfast and lunch," said Wyman, who added that he has been in the business for more than 15 years. "We never had a big business in take out. We do a lot of egg-related food, which doesn’t carry out well. About 95 percent of our business is sit-down. We attempted to do takeout, it just wasn’t successful. Looked into doing delivery, but to do that wouldn’t work."
Wyman said he had thought of reopening again soon, but with restaurant dining rooms still being shuttered for the foreseeable future, the soonest he said he could see reopening is mid-May. (http://thefreshstartdiner.com)
"It’s a huge financial hit," Wyman said. "We had quite a bit of product we had to throw out. Also, we donated a lot of product. A lot of my full time employees were able to get on unemployment, It’s amazing the positive feedback we’ve been getting that was posted on the Twinsburg Roundtable. It’s a huge hit on our business but we were smart with our money. We got a grant yesterday which will help us. We will survive, it will be just different."
Steps are already being taken for when Wyman can reopen the dining room.
"We have 78 seats currently," he said. "We may have to reduce capacity. We do have have a back room for parties, we may be able to add some tables. I’ve ordered masks for employees and disposable paper menus. I’ve been in here pretty much every day since we’ve closed. We’ve got to figure out the six foot rule because we have a counter right by the front door. Employees will use gloves. It’s a huge learning experience. But we miss our customers and our employees. Thankfully I’m not losing any of my employees. We’ve got loyal customers. That’s the nice thing about a small restaurant, they are all like family. They know if they need any extra help, we are here to help them."
April Helms can be reached at email@example.com.