In this series, we learn from small businesses across the country how they are adapting in the world of COVID-19. We spoke with Vivianna D’Ambrosio, Event Sales Manager at Aioli Gourmet Burgers and Catering in Pheonix, AZ.
How has this pandemic impacted your restaurant over the last few months?
We have received a great deal of support from our local community. Although our patrons have not been able to dine in, they have ordered curbside service. We did have some lapse in sales, but thanks to the support that we have been given we have been able to keep all of our team members working. Which is huge during these past few months.
As a business owner, how have you handled the situation over the last few months? How have you been feeling?
It has definitely been a stressful time, but we have leaned on each other. As a company overall we are all one team and that has shined through more than ever over the past months. Feeling wise, they are mixed but we always end the day on a positive note with being thankful for the support that we have been given.
How have you pivoted your operations to ensure the safety of your staff and customers?
We have all of our team members wearing masks and some are wearing face guards. All team members in the front and back of house are wearing gloves. They are changing gloves and washing hands often. We sanitize all surfaces throughout the day. We have put up plexiglass in front of our order station because to-go ordering is still available. We have a 6-foot perimeter around our order station as well. There is sanitizer available for guests and team members. We are serving our food in plastic containers to prevent contact as well.
What are you doing now that you weren't previously?
We are only offering pickup or to-go food. We have put additional sanitary measures into action to keep our team and patrons safe.
How are you communicating to customers how to reopen/reclose?
We mainly communicate through social media, email and our website.
How are you communicating business changes to your customers?
Through our Google listing, website, social media, email and website.
What challenges did you have to overcome?
We had to think on our feet when this first started because not only do we own restaurants but we also operate three food truck concepts. We decided to launch a weekly prepared meals program as well as a meal donation program for first responders to keep our staff working and to support those in the front lines of the virus. Starting a whole new business concept literally overnight was a challenge, but thankfully we have an amazing team that was able to pull it off. We also had to restructure how we service food truck/catering events as well as the flood of cancellations that came our way. We tried our best to be fair to our clients.
How are you taking care of your employees?
Our team members have been able to work throughout the pandemic so far. We have provided them with masks, gloves and sanitizer while they are on shift. We are also checking temps when they come into work. As of right now we have not had any Covid-19 cases.
What opportunities do you discover coming out of this situation?
This pandemic has and is going to change the way that we work in the food and beverage industry. It will not be as simple as it once was. The additional sanitary measures that we have added most likely will carry on throughout the year to stop the spread. We are prepared to continue to roll with the punches. We are taking it day by day with the same mission every day which is to keep our patrons and our team members safe.
What advice or tips do you have for other restaurants who have reopened, shut down and reopened again?
Stay aware and try your best to be ahead of the curve. As the cases started to rise in Arizona we decided to shut down our dining room and go back to curbside or to-go service only. The very next day Governor Ducey announced the guidelines to shut down indoor dining again. Our patrons appreciated the fact that we took measures into our own hands with their safety and our team members in mind. That is really all that matters right now. The actions that you take during these times will show the kind of business you are running, and we hope that our patrons and team members understand that we are here to serve them as safely as possible.