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May 28, 2020

5/5/2020 4:12:00 PM
Putting "care" in carrying out; local restaurants offering carryout services during COVID-19
Because of Wisconsin's safer at home order, many Wisconsin restaurants have been ordered to close, as well as taverns. However, if a restaurant was able to provide carryout or delivery services, they were able to stay open.
According to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, 97 percent of Wisconsin restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume during the period from April 1 to April 10 was lower than it was during the same period in 2019.
Sixty-one percent of Wisconsin operators say they continued operating but for off-premises traffic only.
Wendy Dueling, owner of Popolo's Pizzeria in Mineral Point, has been really appreciative of the community support.
"I've definitely seen just an amazing level of support from the community," Dueling said. "Not just from Mineral Point, but also from people who are wanting to get out of the house and take a little car drive to pick up food, it's just been humbling."
Dueling said that while the community has rallied together to show support, there has also been a big learning curve during the pandemic.
"Previous to this, we didn't have our own websites," Dueling said. "We realized that it wasn't something that we could avoid any longer."
"We were happy to put one together," Dueling added. "I went and built the website, and then I worked with Sean while he worked with our POS system.
And within three days, Popolo's POS system was linked to our website, and the local restaurant was able to offer online ordering off of their website the very first week.
It became about meeting the needs of their customers, and because of the reduction of sales it forced 84 percent of Wisconsin restaurant operators to lay off or furlough employees since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March.
As a result it has been just Sean and Wendy who have been handling the cooking.
"We've laid off our staff, because we felt that it was the best choice for reducing contact and spread," Dueling said. "We reduced our size, then whatever we're doing for business right now, we can bank for later and then we're able to bring back our whole staff."
Greg Gorius, owner of Red Zone in Highland, also offers curbside pick up and delivery for customers.
"I thought we'd do a lot better in delivery but we haven't been selling a lot of those," Gorius said. "But we've had a lot of carryout, and I think people are just happy to be able to get out. Over 50% of our customer base is out of town, but most of it now has been people that live in Highland."
Red Zone has also had to adapt to the regulations brought forth by the safer at home order.
"We reduced our menus down just to make them a little bit easier," Gorius said. "The biggest challenge is how long are you going to be able to stay open doing half the business that you used to do."
Gorius adds, "it's been tough to navigate, you still have the employees, all the overhead and half the business that you have, the other half is not a very high profit item. Our bar was half of our business."
At this time, taverns are still closed, and Gorius said that it's about doing the best he can to keep his employees.
"All of my employees are part time, and a lot of them are laid off from their regular jobs and only working half time," Gorius said. "You try to give them as much time as you can, keep them going and still be able to pay your bills."
Gorius pointed out the biggest reason for staying in business as long as he has is in big part due to his employees.
"I've had employees that have been with me since day one, and they are really good," Gorius said. "They do everything they can to try to make the business successful."
Barneveld Cafe, owned by Cliff and Yvonne Hooks, has changed their business by dissolving their LLC and becoming the non-profit Barneveld Community Café UA.
They are another local restaurant that has provided take out services of breakfast and lunch, but with a twist. All menu items have a $0 price tag listed next to them. The Hooks removed the prices off of their menus to help families struggling with unemployment and ensuring that they are able to put food on their tables.
After social distancing was enforced, the Hooks' lost all their staff. With that in mind, Yvonne came in to help her husband Cliff and found that this was the best way to help their community. Yvonne places the orders called and Clifford makes the meals.
They are volunteering 100% of their time and resources to make this endeavor possible. Yvonne takes the calls and places the orders, and Clifford cooks. They also have a couple volunteer staff members to help with whatever else is needed in the cafe.
The cafe has been making anywhere from 500-700 meals weekly.
When the community realized that the cafe was doing this, customers stepped up and made donations in order to keep the cafe's doors open.
"The thing is we weren't asking for any money, and people have just wanted to help," Yvonne said. "All donations that we've received go right back into the community."
The cafe has received both national and international feedback.
"We've heard from people from Honolulu, Dallas, Pennsylvania and Ohio," Yvonne said. "We even had people call us from Austria and Sweden! This is helping us pass the time, and it gives us peace and joy to help in any way we can."

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