How Three Local Restaurant Groups Managed to Stay Afloat During the Pandemic

For these restaurants with multiple locations, some across state lines, the pandemic presented a unique set of challenges.

In the pandemic’s early months, state restrictions on restaurant hours and capacity were all over the place, and hospitality groups needed to multi-task even harder to keep track. Or they had to focus on one location over another in order to keep staff members employed and the community fed. Here’s how three local restaurant groups managed to stay afloat.

Photograph courtesy of Dewey’s Pizza

Dewey’s Pizza

Being a pizza restaurant certainly has its perks. In the pre-COVID days, 30 percent of orders placed at 24 Dewey’s locations in five states were for carryout—so when the industry was hit with widespread restrictions on in-person dining, the pivot to curbside pickup seemed manageable. Still, changes came at restaurant managers in rapid-fire fashion. “Our team didn’t have a playbook for the pandemic,” says President Chuck Lipp.“That was a big fear for a lot of people in our industry. What’s going on? Am I going to have a job tomorrow?” The chain met uncertainty by standing by its employees, expanding its benefits program and offering managers additional—and paid—time off. And customers responded in kind, says Lipp, with some regulars even leaving $100 tips on carryout orders.

Jeff Ruby’s Culinary Entertainment

Jeff Ruby’s may feel like a quintessentially Queen City experience, but with locations in Kentucky and Tennessee CEO Britney Ruby Miller found herself juggling different rules and restrictions. “You never get used to it,” she says. “You learn to be as strategic as possible while still flying by the seat of your pants.” Read more from Miller here.

Station Family + BBQ and CWC

Culinary sister act Caitlin Steininger and Kelly Trush operated Wyoming staples in Cooking With Caitlin (CWC) and Station Family + BBQ, but the pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty. CWC closed in October, and Station has managed to stay afloat with a skeleton crew of employees. Read an interview with Trush here.

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