Chapel Hill eateries are trying to find a way to modify their business models under new regulations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
One business, Takeout Central, is doing its best to encourage people to support local restaurants. Takeout Central is a delivery service that was started by UNC graduates in 1996 under the name of Tarheel Takeout, and which the current owner, Wes Garrison, co-founded.
The business recently announced that it is partnering with many downtown Chapel Hill restaurants to give customers $5 off their orders of $25 or more if they use their service to order and use the code "#ShopDowntownCH." The restaurants in the deal include:
- B. Good
- Carolina Brewery
- Frutta Bowls
- Grk Yeero
- Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza
- Med Deli
- Might as Well
- Moe’s on Franklin St.
- Spicy 9
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Benny Cappella’s
- Mama Dips
- Rumi Persian Cafe
- The Trolly Stop
Garrison said he has been working with many of the restaurants in downtown Chapel Hill since the late 1990s and is doing his best to support them.
“The biggest thing we’re doing is just trying to get people out to restaurants as much as possible and try to help them stay open," Garrison said. “We’ve offered to hire any employees that are getting laid off as drivers temporarily and get them back when this is all over."
Garrison said a lot of people can't leave their homes, and that is where his delivery service can be helpful to the community.
“We can help in that way by getting people to go to restaurants, but I think there’s an awful lot of people who still don’t want to go out, and I understand that," he said. "And I think that’s where we can really help as a delivery service, and we’ve been here a lot longer than Uber or DoorDash or Grubhub have even existed."
Garrison Sitts, a cashier at Buns, echoed Garrison’s sentiment of uncertainty.
“In the restaurant business right now, we're very unsure," Sitts said. "A lot of the cooks and some of the cashiers are being cut from work and are having to file for unemployment. As far as a plan moving forward, none of us are really sure because we’ve never really dealt with anything like this at all.”
Jason Gilbert, general manager of Carolina Brewery's Chapel Hill location, said his restaurant has also had to lay people off. He said the restaurant is currently operating with just managers and a few key team members who have been at Carolina Brewery for a long time.
Gilbert also said management is evaluating the best way for the restaurant to move forward.
“Even if we do close the Chapel Hill location, we would only do that to relocate management into one location, our location in Pittsboro, and operate in that business, but we have no intention of closing for a long period of time," Gilbert said.
Many restaurants said they are being extra cautious about health and safety.
“We’re just going day by day, sanitizing and cleaning as much as possible and taking all the extra precautions," said Andy Ridge, general manager of LOTSA Stone Fired Pizza.
Garrison said it is important to keep everyone safe and healthy during these uncertain times and that the restaurant shutdown has some benefits.
“It's really tough from a social and business perspective," he said. "But I think from a health perspective it's a very good thing."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.