Local restaurants adjusting to restrictions

Photo by Nita Johnson

London Police Chief Daryl Kilburn picks up an order from The Abbey on Friday, outside the restaurant. Restaurant owners report good sales despite restrictions against customers gathering inside the eateries under the CDC and state requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Life has changed drastically for most Kentuckians over the past week, but local restaurants are doing their share to ensure that their customers are receiving the best service possible.

The order by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to close eat-in service at restaurants across the state has had its impact on local businesses - especially locally owned restaurants whose staff works for minimum wage - or less. Servers often depend solely on tips from customers to supplement their meager pay but most local restaurants say they have been surprised at the support they have received from the public.

Brittany Cradic, co-owner of The Abbey, said business has taken a hit from the restrictions imposed by the CDC and Beshear but that the public has continued to support their business during these trying times.

"We've had to cut the shifts in half with our servers, but I've been pleasantly surprised with the response from the customers," she said. "People have really come out to support our business."

While the owners of The Abbey are currently working without pay in order to pay their staff, Cradic reminded the public of the importance of tipping the staff who are still serving customers.

"The servers depend on the tips for their income," she explained. "We never add for tips - some restaurants do, but we never have. If we have an order for 22 people, we just charge for the food. That's why it's important for customers to tip the staff."

In fact, preparing the take-out orders increases the work for restaurant staff who now have to box and bag the food into take-out boxes. "It's actually harder to do the to-go orders because the staff is boxing up the orders and then taking them out to the cars," she said. "Plus we have someone taking the phone calls and getting the orders together, so it's important to tip the servers. They've already had their hours cut and they need the tips to pay their bills."

The standard tip is 15% of an order although Cradic said 20% makes a huge difference for many servers.

Judd Weaver, owner of Weaver's on 4th, also has good reports about the support from the public. The long-time downtown London restaurant is doing well under all circumstances, he said, with most of their staff being family and they have not had to cut any employees.

"People have responded well. They know this is all out of our control and we are just one of many dealing with this devastation," Weaver said. "We have the best customers, who are like our own family. They understand we are doing what we have to do."

Although restaurants are banned from having people eat inside the restaurant, people do come inside to pick up their orders. Others park outside and Weaver's staff take the orders to their vehicle.

"People are not restricted from coming into the restaurant, they just cannot eat inside of the restaurant," he explained.

Weaver added that the business has changed its operating hours due to the restrictions and is now closed on Saturday. They will be open during regular hours during the weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. He also said the employees at Weaver's do not wait tables, so tipping is not required, although tips are appreciated.

"Our workers do not rely on their tips since we do not wait tables, and we have just now closed on our first Saturday, so we are yet to know how tipping will effect having one less work day," he said. "But our customers have been very generous with tips."

That was seconded by Gina Wilson, co-owner of Sauced restaurant on Broad Street in London. Wilson said she has been very impressed with the response of the City of London officials and customers during this sudden change in service options.

"We weren't set up for curbside service," she said. "We don't have multiple phone lines or the infrastructure for carry-out orders, but the City of London has stepped up to help us. We've had to come up with a completely new business model and it's 40% more work to do the carry out service."

Sauced has faced additional challenges, as the downtown eatery just opened in January.

"We opened January 6 - we've only been open in London for two months and one week before this happened," Wilson said. "We've had to cut hours, but we're doing all we can not to eliminate any staff."

Wilson's business is another spot where tips are greatly appreciated.

"The extra tips help carry our employees over and people are tipping generously," she said. "The employees appreciate it so much - that's what has carried us through this."

Wilson said composing a completely new business model has been trying but that the business is dealing with the rapid changes as well as possible. But those restrictions have also impeded the plans the restaurant had already been undergoing.

"We just got approved to sell alcohol. We were going to officially announce it on Monday or Tuesday," Wilson said. "And we had just ordered patio furniture!"

Wilson added that Sauced is working with a local company, S Media, to install online ordering as well as utilizing their Facebook and website to better serve its customers. S Media, she said, is also offering services to other local restaurants as well.

"They are working very rapidly to get London businesses online," she said. "We expect to go live this week with an app."

Although Wilson said their original restaurant in Pineville was not generating as much business as the newly opened one in London, she said both eateries are doing well in these times of constant change.

"Pineville doesn't have the population of London, but overall we're doing okay," she said. "We continue to clean - we've already had 'above and beyond' evaluations by the health department and we've upped our cleaning procedures even more.

"I know that it's going to be fine - Kentucky is looking good across the country for their efforts to control the Coronavirus as much as possible," she said. "Our Governor has done an excellent job so far and Kentucky is a role model for other states for the actions we've taken. Everything will be fine - after all, we are all Team Kentucky and we'll get through this together."


React to this story:


Recommended for you