Drew Gahagan perked up as a customer walked through the doors of his business, the Village Oven in downtown Brunswick.
The two briefly discussed cookies about to go into the oven, with the patron vowing to return.
Gahagan certainly hopes she does. Like restaurant owners around the world, Gahagan has faced some dark days since the coronavirus began to spread.
Now, he’s looking at options for safely peddling his wares to customers during the time of a pandemic.
“Sales were fairly normal until last week — Tuesday or Wednesday. Then Thursday, Friday and Saturday it dropped precipitously. We were doing less than 50 percent of our normal sales,” he said.
Patrons are still coming in but they are scarce.
“We’ve had a slow trickle of customers. I don’t know how that will add up for sales. We’ve had to make some staff cutbacks this week to conserve money,” he said.
Since all Americans have been urged to stay home due to the virus, restaurant and cafe owners have sought ways to adapt and quickly switch gears.
Of course, they are able to still serve food and many have made the decision to switch up their business model in the name of safety.
One thing restaurants have been embracing is the option of to-go, delivery and curbside service.
That, according to authorities, limits person-to-person contact and doesn’t pose a risk to diners.
For Gahagan, serving guests at a distance has always been an option, one he’s glad to have today. His building is equipped with a drive-thru window that allows shoppers to zip through to pick up their selection of baked goods or coffee.
“It’s funny because a lot of our regulars don’t even realize that we have a drive-thru window. But the ones who have ordered there have been very comfortable with it,” he said.
“We support and follow the CDC’s guidelines and whatever the government says to do in order to arrest and stop this epidemic.”
While he is concerned about his financial state, like many business owners, Gahagan is also worried about his employees. He’s already had to make difficult discussions regarding staffing and hopes it ends there.
“This has hit restaurant workers hard. But the people who come in are really supportive. They want to help, which is nice because they certainly have enough to worry about on their own,” he said.
Like Gahagan, Amanda Fortune and husband Palmer have been watching the situation closely.
The couple owns Palmer’s Village Cafe and co-owns Porch, both on St. Simons Island.
Fortune says the virus has created a difficult time for all.
“It is an unprecedented and nerve- wracking time. We want to keep our staff, customers, employees and their families safe,” she said.
“Like all business owners, we want to keep our business going and our employees getting paychecks while keeping the public and our crew safe.”
After thinking of ways to safely proceed, they decided to bring Palmer’s to their Porch location, where they’re serving a limited menu.
“We are planning on moving a limited menu over to Porch from 8 to 11 a.m. daily,” she said.
They also have online ordering on their website, as well as large scale take-out options.
They are eyeing a future drive-thru procedure as well.
Fortune adds that they’ve been using the Porch food truck as another means of serving customers.
The vehicle has been parked at Bennie’s Red Barn over the weekend where it sold food for customers to take home.
Many restaurants are doing their best to take advantage of ways to make safe sales.
And an additional item has been added to local businesses arsenals recently — wine, beer and spirits. The county commission has approved the sale of these on a take-away basis.
“We can pack that to go,” Fortune said.
For their businesses, like their food service brethren, Fortune stresses they are just trying to stay afloat and keep everyone healthy during this difficult time.
“We are trying hard like everyone else to keep our employees and customers safe and employed,” she said.