Just a few months after it first opened its sit-down restaurants, Delta Townhip’s The Smoke ‘N Pig BBQ found itself already was changing its business.
That’s an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16 shut down in-housing dining in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. Owners Gabe Jones and Bryan Torok in December opened the restaurant, which grew out of a food truck they operate.
The business had to adapt to stay open.
“We added online ordering to our website right away and that helped a great deal because we knew we’d have less people coming in, so we had to make it as easy as possible for them to order our food and find a way to come get it,” Torok said.
The restaurant also added delivery services, and curbside delivery was also an option.
“We put Grubhub and DoorDash on board right away as well, so that we had a way to deliver to those folks who did not feel safe coming into the restaurant to order,” Torok said. “We still have customers that will be in the parking lot and call in the order and we will take it out to the car for them if that is what their preference is.”
Torok said the restaurant may have seen an increase in business since competitors in the area completely shut down.
Torok said it is hard to put a number on how much business they might have lost without in-person dining, because it had not been open for a long period of time, but he said they gained customers in the other areas. Food truck operations were also limited. Catering and festivals were a huge revenue point for the food truck, but all festivals were shut down, so those were not an option.
“We still do some special events with the food truck, but we lost a lot of business,” Torok said. “We were pretty active with all the local festivals and we lost all that festival business and that was probably 25% of our total business.”
Another thing businesses had to deal with was price increases on products like pork, beef and chicken. Some restaurants chose to raise prices, but Torok said The Smoke ‘N Pig BBQ did not alter prices to match the rise in prices for the product, because he did not think it was something the customer should have to cover. The restaurant was also able to keep its full staff throughout the shutdown, so they were able to keep up during the busiest times.
The restaurant has also changed its cleaning practices and adjusted the inside of the restaurant to allow for social distancing.
“We are much more frequently cleaning any frequently touched surfaces that the customers and our employees share like the credit card machines,” Torok said. “Any of those high-touch areas are constantly getting wiped down.”
The inside of the restaurant can regularly seat 40 to 50 people, but since there can be three lines in the store at any time — one for the cash register, another for pick-up orders and another for Grubhub and Doordash delivery drivers — seating capacity was reduced to maintain social distancing said Torok. They have one booth and three tables inside along with four tables outside.
“It was scary in the beginning,” Torok said, “but then we could see pretty early on that things were still going well so we just kept crossing our fingers and doing what we could to make sure everybody who ordered and came in were being served right, and we had the best possible food, so it has paid off. So far so good. We’re doing well.”