Business Matters 2020 - Page 10

Rose Specter, left, and Tommy Specter, right, had to completely close down their restaurant for several weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their fantastic staff has been supportive of the updates and changes. percent (occupancy), to tear down the buffet,” Rose says. Even after the occupancy stipulation rose to allowing 50 percent seating, TR’s remained closed a few more weeks. “We had quite a few discussions on our curbside service. There is no way we could put a drive-through in this place, we looked at it every possible way,” she says. Tommy said one of the issues with the curbside service it that it is labor intensive. Under the buffet concept TR’s would normally operate with seven or eight staffers per shift, but with curbside operation that ratio rose to 10 or 11 workers per shift. “We used to have 40-to-50 tables and now we’re at 25 tables,” she says of capacity during the reopening at the 50 percent of occupancy level. As they made the change from the selfservice buffet concept to more of a cafeteria style service they hit obstacles in getting sneeze guards made of glass or plexiglass to make the transformation. Tommy went online to gather ideas on how best to move forward with a new business model. The Specters worked with local contractors and vendors with a lot of changes as the plans evolved. “Food prices were actually the highest they’ve every been,” Tommy says. “For beef, my cost was more than $5 a pound; brisket was in the high sixes. Ribeye went from a little under $6 to as much as $14 a pound.” Rose says when they sold a ribeye steak they were actually losing money on the sale. “Chicken breast went extremely high, we normally pay $30-to-$40 for a 40-pound case and it went all the way to over $100 a box,” she says. “It’s pretty sad when your seafood costs less than chicken.” At one point they were told the contractor working on their remodeling could not get the plexiglass needed to make the revamped concept work and he said it could be three to six months before he could get it. That news was devastating — but not a deal killer for their plans to reopen on a scale beyond curbside service. They got in touch with Center Glass about using glass instead of plexiglass, thinking the cost would be considerably higher but it was not. “Just the way everything has worked out, I believe in the power of prayer and this definitely has been a prayer situation. It came in way under budget,” Rose says. “We had an idea, but we kind of built it as we went,” Tommy says. “We didn’t know how we were going to get electricity to the new serving lines. We had sneeze guards custom made and probably had our electrician out at least four or five times.” Things had to be moved around as they fine-tuned plans and adapted to fit the space and the limitations. “It’s still a work in progress,” he says. Yet another part of their business receiving a gut-punch with the pandemic was their Endless Possibilities catering. “It was dead. Everything was cancelled,” Rose says. Some catering jobs have come back, but not near to the precoronavirus level. “Some of it is where we prep it up and they come by and pick everything up and serve it themselves with masks and gloves,” she says. Tommy says a guiding principle as they have moved forward with ever changing plans has been a focus on safety for both staff and customers. “We were looking for guidance from the health department but got none, they were all working from home,” Rose says. “They’re the ones who govern us, who come in and tell us we have to be careful of 10 Business MATTERS | 2020 Fall Edition