Continued — More firsthand accounts of how pizzeria owners and leadership have handled the COVID-19 Pandemic (Page 3)
MORE COVID-19 STORIES: Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Back to Main Page
Ron’s Original Bar & Grille — Exton, Pennsylvania
Adapt. Change. Overcome.
That’s just what we did here at Ron’s when faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. We adapted to the new rules and regulations handed down by the government. We made changes to our facilities, policies and procedures to better service our customers. And we are constantly overcoming this ever-changing situation, day by day.
When COVID-19 began to impact our area, restaurants were ordered to close their doors to dine-in customers. We quickly jumped into action and introduced our new Curbside Pickup service. Realizing we needed to do more, we turned to closing our doors completely, in order to regroup and come back better than ever. We cleared out our inventory by having an amazingly successful (and socially distant approved) sidewalk sale, then took to our brainstorming sessions for nearly 2 weeks to develop a plan that would meet and exceed our customer’s expectations. As quarantine progressed, we continued to follow through on every mandate and recommendation handed down to us from the CDC and Health Departments. From apps that track our restaurants cleanliness to patented floor to ceiling sanitizing systems; we have maintained impeccable cleaning and sanitization standards, provided safe social distancing protocols and have done our very best to ensure everyone in and around our establishment feels safe.
We adapted. We changed. And we are still overcoming. At Ron’s we believe in providing the best because our customers deserve the best and we will continue to provide the best and safest possible dining experiences.
Sibie’s Pizza — Amherst, Pennsylvania
My name is Matt HD, I am an actor, filmmaker, and video producer, and a proud team member of my family owned Sibie’s Pizza. Our little pizzeria is located in Amherst, MA, a small, rural farming community rich in arts, history, and culture… and five colleges.
Our family opened Sibie’s in 2001, and with my dad, George Duranti, bringing his lifelong experience as a chef, we slowly carved out our niche as the locals pizza shop in the area. In the past couple of years, we had been focusing on two new revenue streams – sports catering & vegan pizza.
2020 was off to a great start for us- our vegan pizzas popularity was spreading faster than expected and in our prior year we had our highest catering sales to date. Momentum was moving in our favor and this year was going to be a solid year of expansion.
When the pandemic hit, this all changed. We were faced with new challenges and ultimately a new way of life.
We immediately changed up our procedures adapting to a contactless service for both pick-up and delivery and adopted new enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures. We were doing what we could to stay open, but things were increasingly risky for our team and ultimately we decided to close for three weeks and see how things with the virus would develop.
While we were closed we started brainstorming on things we could do differently because COVID-19 wasn’t going away anytime soon. There were no sports teams to cater to. No more meetings or parties that needed a supply of hot cheesy goodness. The former bustling college was unseasonably quiet. Our former business model was no longer viable and with the business closed we needed to find a way to stay connected with our community we had been serving for almost twenty years. We needed to try something new…
This is where I decided to combine my personal passion for filmmaking & storytelling with the family business to amplify our presence in the digital landscape. With a background in marketing and entertainment, I wanted to find a way to connect with those who were stuck inside with fears and unrest.
The idea I came up with for Sibie’s to continue to stay vocal in the community while closed was to create a DIY video series on making my family’s pizzas at home (Titled, “PIZZA TV”).
So I pulled together all the available production equipment I had, including a first-gen iPad, GoPro, and some old iPhones to create a 5 camera set up around my dinner table.
I shot four episodes with this make-shift, epically-indie setup, which I am now calling “Season 0.”
During filming, I connected with a well-known photography/media brand that was inspired by our story and what I was trying to accomplish and offered to support the PIZZA TV project.
This allowed me to upgrade the indie setup to a pro 6 camera, 4K shoot – which I used to produce an official 7 episode season 1 of “Pizza TV.”
This has been an amazing experience for me because it allowed me to work with my family figuring out new recipes and how to adapt these large commercial kitchen recipes to a small batch home kitchen & oven. Since we started putting out this new video content, we have been able to expand our reach and our voice in the community. We have been blown away by the responses we have been receiving and are feeling more connected than ever to our customers and our community.
Through these tough times, it’s important now more than ever to support one another as we are all truly in this together. We believe it’s important for small businesses to step up and become local leaders as we are the first line of support to our community. It’s important to have transparency, and compassion and be open to new practices as we all have new mindsets about what is needed to survive.
So currently, with Pizza TV, I am deep in post-production, editing future episodes to be released soon, but mainly just trying to take things one day at a time and being open and okay with all the change the comes.
We are proud to do what we do and stand among all the other pizzerias, restaurants, and family’s finding their way through these pandemic times.
Stay safe & Eat healthy.
— Matt HD, George Duranti and team Sibies.
Listen to the upcoming The Hot Slice Podcast for an in-depth conversation with Owner and Brewmaster Wesley Keegan and Marketing Manager Liz Tarry.
We’re a craft brewery that launched a pizza kitchen about five years ago, and ever since we’ve gotten more and more recognition for putting out some of Nashville’s best pizza. Which is still crazy to us! We had absolutely no background in pizza when we first started – just a love of beer and a desire to see more quality pizza + beer in the city. From the beginning we agreed that we’d only commit to starting a restaurant component if we were equally as passionate about the product as we are about our beer. So from our love of pizza + beer came a combination craft brewery and pizzeria. It’s helped us differentiate ourselves, and brought pizza lovers in the door that may not have sought us out otherwise.
From the outset, we’ve never been structured like a traditional pizzeria. It’s always been about getting people into the taprooms to drink our beer, and to buy that beer at grocery stores and craft beer shops to expand our distribution footprint. So we’ve never operated – like a traditional pizzeria would – with things like takeout or delivery. We’ve only ever had one phone line! The bottom line is that COVID changed everything for everyone, but lots of pizzerias had the structure in place to pivot to a to-go model. We didn’t. But! That didn’t stop us from doing it anyways.
We changed everything on the fly, and never missed a day – never had to close our doors. We launched our own pizza and beer delivery the same day we got the shelter-in-place order, and brought back our 50+ person team the next to work takeout, curbside and delivery across our three Nashville locations. We changed POS companies to institute a better online ordering and menu management system. We launched pizza kits to appeal to guests looking for at-home entertainment. Liquor laws began changing, so we introduced frozen liquor slushies called Bushwackers that we mixed with one of our most popular beers. Paired with our pizzas, it was an instant hit. We prepared for dine-in re-opening and once it did, we continued offering all of our to-go options to accommodate all levels of guest comfort.
Ultimately the key to success for us has been relying on that core pizza business. We continued our rotating Pizza of the Month specials – two of which have been the most successful ever, Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza and Thai Chicken Pizza. We run a half-price pizza Wednesday special that we adapted to our new to-go model rather than abandon a tradition that’s much-loved in our community. We were able to keep all of our people as takeout business grew, and today we have more employees than ever. Pizza and beer is ideally situated for takeout and delivery, and we love being able to occupy that space in our community.
Looking forward, we’re going to continue to run lean. We’re going to keep the team that we have on and continue to attract the best talent in the city. We’re working on a new menu because in our space, breweries that have never dabbled in food are adding kitchens, and pizza is a common entry for the beer category. We’re going to find new ways to elevate our current offerings and make our menu better. We’re going to make our guests feel even more appreciated. Delivering a genuine “Thank you for being here. We’re so glad to have you,” goes a long way. This year may have been rocky, but we’re going to continue to grow despite – and because of – the challenges, and we’re looking forward to a lot more pizza in 2021!
Slingin’ Pizza — Laguna Park, Texas
I’ve been working in pizza since I was 16 years old and I very quickly fell in love with how people get pizza on there best day and their worst day and I’m honored to be apart of both and very quickly my dream became to have my own shop. In April 2019 we opened… in a lake town, where the lake happened to need to be closed to tourists that year because of flooding, that was pretty terrifying… but we pushed through and even grew.
Now that we’ve come to the end of our second summer in the middle of everything that’s going on…we are still growing.
Right before this all started, we were so excited for our “first summer with the lake open!”
It was a hard blow for our spirts when this all started right before, but with my amazing amazing crew, we just decided we were going to come out of the gates fighting and we did.
We make sure that along with our awesome food that were loving on every customer that we can.
Chatting with them, seeing how they’re doing, seeing if they need anything; and if they do and it is in our reasonable power to help them out, we do.
We decided we wanted to be a bright point in people’s day, so we blast music! We dance around like weirdos while we’re tossing out dough. It is so much fun and we see it daily put smiles on people’s faces!
I knew how much I was going to have to sacrifice to make my dreams a reality, my dreams of having a pizza shop that genuinely loves on every person that comes through our doors, but nothing could have possibly prepared me for what has been my first few years of owning my own shop.
We closed the lobby and started handing pizza out through our makeshift take out window that actually is just our front window.
We bought extra food to sell to try and help our customers not have to go into the chaos that had become a typical grocery store trip as often. Like chicken, beef, extra veggies. When bread started to become a hard thing to get, we started turning our pizza dough into bread…it actually became so popular that we now make our sandwich bread every morning!
Then my awesome quilter Aunt Jayne started making masks! She was using money my amazing Grandma Audrey left her, so she very generously donated them to us. We got the masks in right before the mask mandate came into effect in Texas. So because she blessed us with them in turn we got to bless our customers with them and when they ordered we gave them a free mask with each order. It just lit up my heart being able to give masks to people that were having trouble finding them or finding them at a huge mark up. It got to the point where I had to charge for additional masks to try and get them spread out to more families. Which honestly in turn help us pay some bill, so this project helped out everyone!
What I’ve personally learned through this time is that while yes, putting out a good product is of course important…what people are seeking is just people to be genuine with each other again.
Im in the process of creating “Sling’ it Forward” Basically im just hoping to give our customers a safe place to help each other out and fill needs.
— Owner Audrey Jayne
Punxsy Pizza — Punxsutaney, Pennsylvania
Since the beginning of the pandemic we have gone form 15% down to 30%+ increase in sales. Sounds terrific but it’s been a rough ride. I only have 7 out of 17 of my staff left. The increase in sales & the way business falls – all in one big rush every day has left my staff stressed or just not able to keep up.
To try to cope with this I have had to adjust scheduling, inventory (different items selling) and hours of operations. Shortages in the food supply chain have affected us too, even the best manager can’t guess what suppliers will be out of next or speculate what the food cost will be. The sheer volume we are doing is keeping us in the black as food cost has soared. We raised prices once and plan doing so again.
The cost of doing business has been another area where we had to adapt and invest. Our delivery has increased so we have put money into newer & better delivery equipment to deal with increased delivery times. Customers demand contactless transactions so our Online Ordering platforms and apps needed to be updated. Along with that credit card sales have tripled so more expenses to be dealt with.
Our biggest challenge through all of this and now is the lack of people willing to work, let alone work hard. While a stimulus check & extra money from Unemployment have been a blessing to many, for a small business like mine it has devasted the job pool. I have empathy for my staff; It is miserable working in a hot kitchen, wearing a mask & cleaning more than ever before. I try my best to a leader & not just a boss, I have never asked more of them then I ask of myself. My hours spent working have doubled. My last day off was to take my Father in for an outpatient procedure.
The SBA’s PPP loan was a big help in the beginning of the pandemic. I have unsuccessfully applied for several grants to be able to give out some form of hazard pay to employees. In the mean time I have given raises & bonuses to keep morale up. The OT looks great on a check but my employees have certainly earned it.
We try to take one day at time and do our best. There is much anxiety in the air but I feel that our business will endure. I look forward to adapting to whatever the new normal is.
— Owner Scott Anthony
MORE COVID-19 STORIES: Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Back to Main Page