Working Past Covid – One challenging year for one local restaurant
West Richland, WA- Possibly no sector of the economy got hit hardest by the pandemic than the entire hospitality sector. When restaurants were forced to close their doors, they were also forced to change the way they do business just to survive. Don Karger, owner of West Richland’s Henry’s Restaurant and Catering, says “We just went into disaster mode.”
Coming off a great 2020, Karger was looking forward to another great year. He had $250,000 booked in catering for the year, and the restaurant was chugging along like it always had. Then all of a sudden last spring, Karger had to close his doors, with all of the catering appointments going up in smoke.
The first two months, Karger went into $30,000 of their savings to just keep going. “So we were using our savings, keeping our staff going. First thing we did, we were doing take out. The community was phenomenal. And it jumped up to half our normal volume. It wasn’t enough to even break even, it was thought enough to help out, keep up afloat.”
First step in moving on, was to find unemployment for his staff. After working long hours, and cutting through red tape, Karger was able to get that done. Then his focus went to getting PPP loans from the government, which provided the lifeline for the rest of the year.
Karger then got creative. He was able to seat a limited amount of people outside. He also created take home kits for the holidays to help compliment the already take out traffic.
Since opening back up, a new commitment to making sure customers felt safe, with plexi-glass between booths, and extra cleaning for utensils and plates. The question is, will restaurants continue these practices after the pandemic is over? Karger says, “I want to say the majority of restaurants will continue, they’re will always be a few that won’t, sloppy procedures. But they’ll pay, and fairly quickly.”
Every sign is the pandemic will ease into the Summer for the Mid-Columbia. As with everyone, there were lessons learned from the year of the pandemic. “The people who did well through this are the ones that got creative. With their marketing, their programs and how they did business. It was just reinventing everything that we ever thought about our business.”
Henry’s Restaurant and Catering is open Tuesday – Sunday, 8am to 2pm on 4806 West Van Giesen in West Richland.
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