Local restaurants are adapting to the state restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by offering additional take-out — and sometimes delivery — services.
Mandisa Horn, owner of Horn O Plenty, a farm-to-table restaurant in Wolfsburg, created a Facebook group “Bedford County Local Food / Take Out, Delivery & Grocery” for local restaurateurs to promote themselves on March 19, the same day Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all non life sustaining businesses to close their doors to the public.
Restaurants are permitted to stay open, but are only allowed to offer take-out or delivery options.
“A lot of us were in the dark about what was going on,” Horn said. “We didn’t know what was needed. Nobody really knew what was available, what wasn’t.”
The Facebook group has had numerous restaurants across the county post their adjusted hours and menus over the past week.
“I think it’s something that was needed a long time ago,” Horn said. “Hopefully it remains a resource for the community.”
Horn said her restaurant’s entire business model has changed in the past week.
“Takeout was always a small portion of sales before,” she said. “Now it’s the only option.”
Artisan pizza has been a popular take-out dish, and Horn said a number of customers have commented about the difficulty of finding bread, so the restaurant has increased its baking of its artisan breads.
A “drive-through bakery” with eggs, bread and coffee is set to be opened 11 a.m. Monday as part of a grocery hub that will include bags of fresh produce.
“It will include fresh produce that can enrich people’s lives,” she said.
Horn said the restaurant will be selling local foods that people can prepare at home, including Easter lamb or ham orders that will be available for pickup between Friday and April 12. Horn said she also has made an online video showing customers how to prepare the lamb.
The order to cease dine-in services has been a burden on restaurants and their employees.
Tom Salmon, owner of the Golden Eagle Inn, 131 E. Pitt St., Bedford, said he had to lay off most of his service staff, including waiters and bartenders, for the time being.
“Everybody will try to get through this,” he said.
The Golden Eagle is offering take-out options and beer-to-go, including draft beer available for anyone bringing a growler. The menu features much of the restaurant’s popular appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees.
“It’s pretty reflective of what we normally do,” Salmon said.
Sara Letzo, co-owner of 10/09 Kitchen and Nick’s Sandwich Company, 132 E. Pitt St., alongside her husband, Nick Letzo, also said the mandated closures forced them to lay off their part-time staff.
“It’s been tough,” she said.
Both Letzo and Salmon said their staff was understanding of the ongoing challenges. Letzo said her restaurant’s customers also have been understanding.
“The community has been super supportive,” she said. “Our regular customers have been coming in to make sure we survive this.”
Letzo said the two restaurants have had different experiences adjusting.
“Nick’s Sandwich Company is adjusting especially well because it was already take-out only,” she said. “But with 10/09, it’s a little harder of a transition.”
Letzo said fine dining restaurants like 10/09 Kitchen aren’t meant for take-out boxes.
“Not all of our food is designed for that experience,” she said. “A lot of it is presentation.”
Letzo said the restaurant is looking to pivot its menu in the next few days.
One of the major adjustments for the Letzos was the introduction of delivery service.
“We’re delivering in an 8-mile radius,” she said. “That includes Bedford and Everett. ... We’ve never done that before.”
Jeff Rinscheid, owner of Bedford Tavern, 224 E. Pitt St., said business has taken a hit, estimating his restaurant saw between a fifth and a third of its regular business over the weekend.
“As for Monday — the word ‘putrid’ comes to mind,” he said.
The restaurant has adjusted its hours from being open 10 hours per day to 4 hours — 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Rinscheid said business returned to about normal Tuesday evening, likely due to state Rep. Jesse Topper’s promotion of the “Great American Takeout” night that evening to support the restaurant industry.
Rinscheid said the restaurant is earning enough money to pay a chef and someone to answer the phone, but said he had to cover other bills himself.
“It’s better than not being able to open at all,” he said.
Because the Tavern uses fresh ingredients, Rinscheid said having to close all together would’ve wasted inventory.
“If I’m not selling, I’m throwing wings out,” he said.
Bedford Taxi is working to help connect customers to the restaurants. Dave Hyde, one of the three drivers for the transportation company, the taxi service will pickup and deliver food for customers.
“If you call in pickup, we’ll deliver,” he said. “Or we’ll drive you to the pickup window.”
The taxi service covers all of Bedford County, and parts of Fulton, Blair and Somerset counties. It runs seven days per week, until 2 a.m. on weekdays and later on weekends.
Hyde said many of the trips the service runs are medical appointments or to the grocery store.
“We make it happen if you need help,” he said.
Salmon said Bedford still has plenty to offer despite the mandated closings.
“There are a lot of options in town,” he said. “The food options in Bedford are quite good.”
He said the restaurants are waiting to return to their regular schedules.
“When it’s the appropriate time, we’ll shake off the dust,” he said. “We’ll try to do the best we can in the short term.”
The Facebook group can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/195968968374186.
The Bedford County Visitors Bureau also has added a director of local restaurants to its website at http://visitbedfordcounty.com/takeout.