“The drive-thru kept us alive because we were able to go from a dozen orders per day to about 60 orders per day."
“In March, I sat down with my staff. I laid it out and said I don't know where this is going to go, I don't know how long it's going to be. They're saying two weeks, but it could go longer, and then soon enough we found out that it was longer.
Some of my staff decided to leave. Some did it to take advantage of the stimulus and unemployment checks, and they felt that they were going to be okay with that. And then there were a few who were just genuinely scared. So we had a serious talk with the remaining staff members. I told them we can move forward, we can adapt, if you guys are with me.
The first couple of weeks, when we were closed, we were just doing takeout, you know, and curbside. That wasn't going too well. We were down to maybe a dozen orders per day. That wouldn't pay the electric bill. So we changed menus like three four different times, trying to find something that would be a little more practical for takeout. And then we decided to build a drive-thru.
We put a drive thru window right here. We announced it on Facebook. We printed the menus and we went from business to business. The drive-thru kept us alive because we were able to go from a dozen orders per day to about 60 orders per day. It was like day and night, it changed completely after we opened the drive-thru. Also, I think the local community was pulling for us and they started coming through a little more.
We also reached out to the major brand hotels, which had stopped offering their customers hot breakfasts. I saw that as a window of opportunity for us. I talked with the managers, and they told their guests that they could get a good, hot breakfast here, at Casa Lemus.
When the government told us we could do patio seating, I opened up the patio and we started getting some traction again. I added a patio deck on top of the building, so we could seat more people. And I converted the carport, where hotel guests used to come and check in, into an outdoor dining space. I bought a whole bunch of outdoor tables and chairs and we put up a projector and played music videos and stuff like that, just to make it look like something was happening and tell you the truth, we've done very well.
I just lately started looking at my numbers, and overall we're about 19% down from last year.
That's incredible because our state had a 20% minimum wage increase at the beginning of the year, so I did an across the board 20% increase for everyone. And yet I’m down only 19%. Not bad.
I'm very grateful and I think I owe it to the staff members that have done everything it takes to stay healthy and work long hours. Thank God we've been able to stay healthy. We have been blessed."
-- Maurice Lemus, Casa Lemus Inn & Restaurant (October 2020).