From adopting brand new delivery services to allowing curbside pick-up of takeout food, local restaurants are doing whatever is necessary to keep going during the COVID-19 Coronavirus shutdown, making changes in their business practices from day to day, hour to hour, and even minute to minute if need be.
In the wake of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state-wide order for California residents to stay inside their homes to curtail further spreading of the virus, as well as the City of Santa Barbara’s order that restaurants temporarily cease serving food for on-premises consumption, Santa Barbara eateries are taking measures they never have before — and never dreamed they would ever have — to adapt.
For some places, this entails enlisting delivery services for the first time ever. Harry’s Plaza Café has done just that, signing up for Grubhub and DoorDash last week and formally beginning with both services on Friday. According to Harry’s Director of Operations Jordan Scott, the idea of having his restaurant deliver food was a notion that he described as “not really even on our radar” until the coronavirus upended normal restaurant operations.
Though Harry’s has carried out a decent amount of delivery orders thus far, most of its business has been take-out orders, where customers can pick up in the café or on the curb just outside the establishment if they want to distance themselves from other people.
“If people are interested in a limited contact pickup, we’re accommodating that as well,” Mr. Scott said.
Those who order takeout food from Harry’s can take out not only a meal, but an alcoholic beverage as well. This is because the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced a temporary relaxing of enforcement on certain legal prohibitions over alcohol sales as a means of helping impacted businesses. Under the loosened rules, restaurants can sell beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks or cocktails for off-premises consumption with meals prepared for takeout or delivery. This is so long as the alcoholic beverages are packaged in containers with secured lids.
As Harry’s apparently sold over 500 to-go cocktails over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Mr. Scott called this change “a huge boom for us.” However, for reasons of legal liability, Harry’s Plaza Café has chosen not to take advantage of this by delivering alcoholic beverages with meals. It is only utilizing the new rule for takeout.
“The delivery of cocktails is a bit worrisome for me,” Mr. Scott said. “We’re doing everything we can, but we have to be smart about it.”
Harry’s may not be bringing alcohol with its delivery meals, but Pascucci Restaurant will be with its new in-house delivery service that launches today, according to owner Laura Knight. The restaurant until recently utilized third party delivery service Grubhub, which it axed due to Grubhub’s inability to pick up orders in a timely manner, but still uses the services SBbites and Restaurant Connection. Despite its two still active services, Pascucci is nonetheless adopting in-house delivery that will be more affordable to customers and cut through the sometimes long wait times that go with third party services. The in-house delivery will be free with a minimum purchase. While speaking to the News-Press, Ms. Knight said the minimum purchase price should be on the restaurant’s website today. Customers who make that minimum purchase will receive a bottle of Pascucci’s house wine with their delivery.
Other changes the restaurant has rolled out in a hurry include doing curbside pickup and slightly cutting back the menu options to about 75% of normal offerings. Because business is limited to takeout and delivery, that percentage is focused on meals that easily travel. While some places have closed altogether amid the pandemic, Pascucci has already seen its business halt recently, when last month it moved into its new space, located at 509 State St. Since the restaurant just started at its new home, Ms. Knight was sure she didn’t want to stop business.
“People were out of work for three weeks, so we’re not trying to do that again,” she said.
While Pascucci’s menu isn’t overly impacted by the necessary changes in business practices, other restaurants have had to severely cut back their menus.
When it was forced to cease business as usual and resort to curbside pickup, Holdren’s Steaks & Seafood was celebrating its 17th year, an anniversary it was going to celebrate every Tuesday and Thursday during March and April with $17 dinner specials. Now, the restaurant’s menu contains just three $17 dinner specials available as entrees — a prime top sirloin, mesquite grilled salmon and herb-crusted chicken breast. The menu still has add-ons like beer, wine, cocktails, soda, and desserts available to go with the meals.
Holdren’s eponymous founder and proprietor Clay Holden told the News-Press that his restaurant’s clientele is pleased it’s adapting to the circumstances, but curbside pickup isn’t really a substitute for having people sit down and eat at Holdren’s.
“It’s actually been received pretty well. People are happy that we’re still serving food, but it’s not what it used to be, that’s for sure,” Mr. Holdren said.
He added that keeping his business going amid the chaos of the coronavirus has demanded more from him than any other period in his life.
“We’ve been open 17 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m working harder than I ever have to get some income to cover bills and have some key employees keep working for me,” he said.