Matt: We are living in some crazy times with this coronavirus/ COVID-19 thing. How are you hanging in there personally?
Maggie: This is a stressful situation for many people and the first week or so was pretty rough. The loss of childcare coupled with having to make daily modifications to our business model to reflect the constant changes in statewide and federal guidelines was brutal. Each day Eric (my husband/business partner) and I would talk about how to best pivot, while keeping our kids (2 & 4) occupied at home. I feel more at ease now that we’re in a holding pattern.
Matt: How has your businesses been hit by these recent issues?
Maggie: Just over two weeks ago we pivoted to a takeout-only model and in our first week as a to-go concept we saw an 80% decrease in sales. When the dining room closed we had to essentially lay off 90% of our staff.
Matt: What are you doing to try and mitigate the impact?
Maggie: We’ve embraced takeout! What was once sort of annoying (perspectives shift in times of crisis, no?) is now our lifeblood. Our ability to sell liquor to go (as ABC regulations loosened in response to the crisis) for sure bolstered our business and let us pivot to a “Comfort Food & Cocktails” concept which feels right for us. We’re staying open every day from 4-8PM because we feel like even though some nights are slow, it’s easier for people to remember when you’re open if you keep consistent hours. We’re running with minimal staff but the team members still working are some of our most recognizable faces (shoutout to JP) so that when people come to pick up their food, they see a friendly face. I think that helps because after all, we’re still in the hospitality business.
Matt: Are you providing any deals, specials, or other services during this time?
Maggie: We added online ordering so that people can place dinner orders at any time of day and not wait to get someone on the phone. Curbside delivery is sort of the norm around here and we’re offering that as well so that customers don’t have to actually come into the restaurant. Today we’ve been dreaming and scheming about an awesome Easter dinner package for families – more info to come soon!
Matt: Do you have a message to your regular customers or to customers in general?
Maggie: YES. We set out to be a local’s joint and by the number of repeat faces we see on any given night I’d say we hit that mark. What I never expected in a tourist town is that our business would be 100% reliant on our locals’ support. The fact that we can keep opening our doors every day during this crisis is completely due to the support we’ve received from Paso Robles, and for that we literally could not be more thankful.
I’d like to add in a note about our team. Other businesses say this but we absolutely have the best team on the planet. The grace with which everyone dealt with the blow of suddenly not being able to work was admirable. I get daily messages from various people on staff who reach out just to check in and see how The Hatch is doing and how Eric and I are faring. We cannot wait to get every single one of them back in here when this thing is over.
Matt: Any advice to other small business owners?
Maggie: This is the time to figure out what you’re really good at and stick with it, paring down all the other noise. Listen to your local customers. Embrace technology to streamline your operations, to make ordering from your business more user-friendly, and to speak (virtually) to your customers.
Matt: Anything else you want to bring up and discuss?
Maggie: Feeding SLO Frontliners!
After listening to feedback from our regulars about their desire to help our restaurant AND show support for local medical workers, we kicked off a crowd-sourced fundraiser in partnership with our friends at Novo Restaurant in SLO.
Donations to the fund are paid to restaurants who then cook and deliver meals to various healthcare centers, hospitals, and groups of first responders in SLO County. Participating restaurants agree to buy products from local farmers/ranchers/bakers/makers so this is a win/win/win scenario. Restaurants are bolstered with sales, growers are supported, and most importantly we get to show love to our SLO County medical staff the best way we know how – through food!
We’re lucky here on the Central Coast. This isn’t New York or anywhere else where the COVID-19 crisis is at fever pitch. The healthcare administrators who we’ve spoken to are calling this “the calm before the storm”… and we’re all hoping there’s no storm. But our medical facilities are preparing for the worst which means that if you’re a healthcare professional right now, tensions are high. Likely you’re dealing with the same issues that we’re all faced with – child care, elder care, long lines at the grocery store – but when you go to work, you have the added likelihood of being exposed to this terrible virus. I think we’re all in agreement that although our SLO County hospitals aren’t teeming with infected patients we still want to give a giant shout of thanks, and a momentary morale-boost in the form of a delicious meal, to those on the front lines.
Donate and get the scoop here.
Questions on how to get involved.