13 Prime Steak mixologist Stacey Voss serves up some to-go cocktails. Image via 13 Prime
Written by Edward Smith
As restaurants struggle to retain staff, meet payroll and keep the lights on, many business owners are adapting to the times with entrepreneurial spirit aided by regulatory leniency.
With shelter-in-place orders in effect across the country and grocery store aisles emptied, some restaurants feel obligated to stay open.
“There’s a humanity side to it that you need to offer services so that everyone can eat,” said Chuck Van Fleet, California Restaurant Association president for the Fresno region.
Restaurants and catering services alike are finding ways to survive and in some instances, be a little creative.
13 Prime Steak
Opening their doors for guests to enjoy a fine steak or carefully cultivated libation isn’t an option for 13 Prime Steak in Clovis. But regulations regarding relaxed delivery of liquor — including some of 13 Prime’s signature craft cocktails as well as an adjusted menu — will help, said Falina Marihart, 13 Prime Steak chief financial officer and co-owner.
California Alcoholic Beverage Control made temporary changes to regulations for restaurants Thursday. In 13 Prime’s case, that meant they could serve up some of the craft cocktails that complement the steaks and other dishes served there.
When Marihart got word of the change, she immediately set to work coming up with a menu of drinks that could be made in batches. The law requires that containers be sealed in a way that a lid can’t be easily removed for a quick sip while driving. Cocktails also must be served with food. And while some restaurants are serving drinks in to-go containers, Marihart and her mixologist, Stacey Voss, felt they wanted to serve their drinks in glass.
“It’s our brand, it’s important,” Marihart said.
One of their drinks, the Barrel-Aged Green Point, equates to two cocktails when served in a Mason jar. They are served chilled, but not yet on ice.
They also had to adapt their food menu. Only being open Tuesday through Saturday, Marihart wanted to modify the restaurant’s menu to cater toward to-go options. They still offer food from their regular menu at a 20% discount. But their signature prime steaks should be enjoyed at a certain temperature, Marihart said. Waiting for pickup and then getting home changes that temperature.
So they added a more comfort-food type menu aimed at family dishes such as chicken-fried steak, meatloaf and pasta.
“Pretty much we wanted a lower price point, and then also provide food that would take-out well, as well as reheat,” Marihart said.
Sales were slow to start and they’re still not where they need to be, Marihart said. When they first rolled out to go, sales were a mere 50% of where they needed to be. Things started to pick up once awareness set in, and they’ve received emails from regulars saying they will order.
“It’s not the level of dine-in service, but if we can keep the momentum going and people continue to order take-out, we can get through this OK,” she said.
Full Circle Brewing Co.
The Fresno brewery is taking its beers directly to the people, putting bartenders to work delivering their product to home-bound customers.
“It really came out of necessity,” said Arthur Moye, CEO of Full Circle Brewing Co. “Every day it seemed where we can sell our beer and what we could do was narrowing and narrowing.”
Moye and his team realized that under their Type-23 license, they were allowed to deliver right to their consumer. After consulting with their attorney, they were all in.
It only took a day to configure FullCircle2go.com so customers could put the 10 different beers offered into a cart for deliveries, repurposing an old website built for commercial customers such as grocery stores and restaurant.
Orders have taken off since the March 17 launch. They only deliver on Tuesdays and Fridays, and have had more than 30 orders since. In the 10 minutes it took to do the phone interview for this story, Moye had gotten another two orders.
For the time being, they’re serving a 12-mile radius from their location in Chinatown. For those outside that radius, pickups can be arranged at 620 F St.
With the taproom closed, their “beertenders” were thirsty for work.
“We really wanted to do what we could to keep our people employed at whatever level possible,” Moye said.
As for any business owner in such a position, earning sales was important.
“If we don’t have that avenue, all of our sales are through wholesalers,” said Moye. Though demand for their product in grocery stores has risen, commercial sales “have been chaotic.”
“All of the same people are trying to shove beer through the same pipeline,” he added.
Not coming up with a solution like delivery would have meant a 30-60% reduction in consumer sales.
“That’s a big hit to the bottom line,” Moye said.
The ideas don’t stop with beer. Moye teased that the team is even thinking of ways to bring the brewery environment to your doorstep, but didn’t elaborate.
“We want people to be able to enjoy themselves while they’re quarantined,” Moye said.
Pardini’s Catering & Banquets
Pardini’s Catering and Banquets in Fresno announced the creation of an employee relief fund to help supplement the salaries of servers and cooks losing work as events come to a standstill. And to do so, the catering company familiar throughout the city for serving events from dozens to hundreds is now offering to bring their dining to your front door.
Beginning March 23, Pardini’s will begin offering prepared meals for families of all sizes, according to a letter sent out to the community from the company.
Family-style meals can be ordered on their website, pardiniscatering.com, and for orders over $50, they are offering free delivery if you live within a four-mile radius of the Pardini’s Banquet location at 2257 W. Shaw Ave. Thirty percent of all orders will go to their employee relief fund to financially benefit their staff.
Even before shelter-in-place orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the catering company had seen cancellations of events nearing 50%, said Jeff Pardini, general manager of Pardini’s, in a March 13 interview.
“If there’s no event, then there’s no work for some of the staff members,” said Pardini.
Event season is typically kicks off at this time, he said. But even Gov. Newsom left the shelter-in-place order open-ended so as to not “raise false hopes if it included an end date,” according to the Associated Press.
“As the event industry is at a standstill, the venues that we serve, including but not limited to Fresno State, the Fresno Fairgrounds, the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center, have been seriously affected by COVID-19,” a press release authored by Jim, Jeff and Jimmy Pardini read. “In turn, hundreds of our loyal employees are currently out of jobs.”