With more questions than answers, Elburn restaurant owners are scrambling to come up with alternate ways to service their customers as they comply with Gov. JB Pritzker’s order to stop serving dine-in meals and drinks.
Delivery, drive-thru and curbside pickup options are allowed.
The Corner Grind, whose business already includes a good amount of pickup orders, will continue that practice, with the added request that customers call ahead to order. Although the restaurant can accommodate orders made on premise, a sign from owner Ann Cobb stated no one will be able to congregate or eat at the shop.
Other restaurants, whose meal service is typically dine-in only, will begin offering versions of takeout, delivery and curbside carryout.
“We will take the food out to your vehicle,” said Brandon Keffeler, Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill’s kitchen manager, explaining how the curbside carryout will work.
The restaurant also will be able to accommodate packaged alcohol orders in bottles and cans with the food, as long as it’s sealed, something the owners were able to work out with the village, he said.
Keffeler said they would prefer credit card orders over the phone, which will make the process safer and more efficient.
Eddie Gaedel’s owner Annette Theobald, who also owns Paisano’s Pizza & Grill, said the carryout option will be available during limited hours, which they are still working out. She said Eddie Gaedel’s also will try doing deliveries just in Elburn.
Theobald said she is working on internal changes, such as staffing for the restaurant, which is difficult, not knowing whether it will be busy or quiet. Theobald also owns a Paisano’s in Sugar Grove. With the three restaurants and including college students who work when they are home, she has 100 staff members.
“There’s a lot of balls up in the air,” she said. “We’ll do what we can to stay open.”
Rise N Dine restaurant, the newest addition to the Elburn Main Street establishments, also will be open for carryout orders, owner Cheryl Groce said. The restaurant will be open for carryout breakfast and lunch, beginning at 6 a.m. and running until 2 p.m. most days.
“A lot of this is uncharted territory,” she said. “We have a few regulars [carryout customers], but it’s not a large part of our business. Right now, it’s only two weeks. We don’t know if they will expand it.”
One of the other unknowns is how the food distributors will respond, Keffeler said. He added that there are rumors that some are closing operations.
“We’re playing it by ear,” he said. “We’ll order as we go. Really, it’s the whole industry, the whole supply chain. The warehouse guys, the drivers, all the way up the line.”
Theobald said that a lot will depend on their suppliers.
“If we can’t get any cheese, I guess we don’t make pizza,” she said.
She said she will be looking for something positive in all of this, such as families being brought together.
“We’re all in this together,” she said.
Groce echoed that sentiment.
She added that she is trying to think about this more in the long-term, but it’s going to be “harder for the little guys to ride it out.” She said she hopes that people will be patient with them.
“We’re all going to have to help each other,” she said. “We’re all working as hard as we can to maintain some normalcy. Nobody wants to lay their workers off. We’re going to have to make some hard decisions.”
Keffeler said the whole situation is difficult.
“We want people to stay safe,” he said. “On the other hand, I have to call a guy and tell him he’s out of a job. It’s frustrating. You realize this is serious, but when it hits you this close to home.”
Obscurity Brewing and Craft Mead owner Luke Goucher, whose brew and BBQ restaurant is not open yet in Elburn, said that he and his partners are continuing with construction of the building, although they have canceled their open interviews with potential staff.
“We’re monitoring the situation very closely,” he said.
Goucher, also one of the owners of the bar and restaurant Lodi in Maple Park, said he is feeling the impact there, as well. Lodi is keeping the kitchen open and moving toward curbside pickup and delivery.
He said he is glad to see all of the social media support for the hospitality industry.
“It’s hard to change a dining culture,” he said. “It requires some creativity.”