Business Matters 2020 - Page 9

Like many Shelby County small business owners, Tommy and Rose Specter have adapted to the ever changing environment the COVID-19 crisis has created. But in their business as owners and operators of T/R’s Steak and More, that has not been easy. Among one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants were literally brought to their knees. Some have not recovered and remain shuttered. Others, like Center’s T/R’s Steak and More, have revamped their entire operations to keep the doors open, staff employed and customers fed. While every facet of the restaurant industry has been hard hit by COVID era restrictions, the buffet sector was especially impacted. In mid-March the Specter’s had a strong inkling of what was coming down the pike as news of the pandemic grew increasingly dire. Rose says she called Center City Manager Chad Nehring to get his take on just how bad the impact might be on small businesses and restaurants in particular. “We knew it was coming, but when was it coming and what are we going to do with this business if we can’t open up?” Rose says. When Nehring told her the restaurant was going to have to close to abide by state mandates, she got with Tommy. “The hardest part was to call 35 of our employees and tell them they don’t have a job, not because I don’t want to be open, but because the government tells us we have to close down,” she says. For the first two weeks everything was shutdown. “We’re sitting at home trying to figure out what we’re going to do but with neither one of us talking to one another about it. It was like we were both scared, and if we said it out loud, it was really real.” They both got on the phone to contact vendors to ask them to work with them on paying bills. “Having to call and actually ask ‘how can you work with us on this,’ is something I never in my lifetime thought I’d ever have to do,” she says. Over the years the couple had talked about easing away from the serve-yourself buffet concept. The pandemic forced their hand. Providing curbside pickup service was the only way TR’s could operate in the early days of the COVID pandemic. With the service they were able to serve some customers and bring a handful of staffers back on the job. There was no way that revenue stream came anywhere near what it took to cover overhead. “We didn’t even make a third of what we normally did,” Rose says. “When we were doing curbside, if we had not gotten the breaks we did from our bank and vendors along with the government doing the PPP (payroll protection program) loan there was no way we could have paid our bills.” When restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining rooms there were severe restrictions on what percent of capacity seating they were allowed. First it was 25 percent with restrictions on social distancing; then 50 percent of capacity. “We didn’t open at 25 percent because we knew we couldn’t do the buffet at that,” she said. Tommy said the uncertainty of the whole pandemic situation resulted in them being overly cautious. “Everything has changed so much in how it was presented — you don’t need to wear masks, you need to wear masks, it’s on this surface; you can go outside the heat will kill the virus and then, no it doesn’t.” Rose said while sitting out under the canopy handling takeout orders she would notice the flow of traffic, or lack of it. “In Center we have a lot of business people who are in town during the week, but it was way down,” she says. “And in the evening, there was no traffic. People were staying home and eating at home.” TR’s shut down on Saturdays and evenings just because there was not enough traffic to even sustain the curbside orders. “We used the time when it was only 25 AT A GLANCE WHAT: T/R’s Steaks and More Grill & Buffet WHO: Locally owned and operated by Tommy and Rose Specter WHERE: 832 Hurst Street Center, TX 75935 WHEN: Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday - Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. PHONE: (936) 598-4115 FACEBOOK @TRS-Steaks-and- More Business MATTERS | 2020 Fall Edition 9