2020 has been a hectic year for everyone, but it's also been an amazing year of firsts for me. I decided to leave my Director of Operations position at the company where I was working and go out on my own. In February, I purchased La Pizzeria and closed and remodeled the 25-year staple in the Lafayette community. We reopened in late February and braced for what we knew would be a tough transition year.
To my surprise, the challenge at hand would be far greater than I originally anticipated. After being open for only three short weeks, we were facing an pandemic, unsure how we would survive.
My managers and I met on the first day of the shutdown and promised ourselves we would either succeed or go down fighting. We all committed to cutting every excess expenditure and working day and night to reduce labor costs. Even still, we had to lay off 95 percent of hourly staff and take a long, hard look at our business model. The next few months were focused on driving revenue, not profit.
We knew value would be top of mind to our customers, since they, like us, didn’t know if they would have a job the next day. We opted to offer “family meals” and believe this is really what put us on the map. Our first Facebook post about our family meals was shared over 17,000 times!
It was important for us to continue to offer glimpses of life before Covid. We began hosting "Virtual Wine Dinners" where customers could pick up a four-course meal paired with four bottles of wine. Using Zoom, we were able to provide customers a first-class experience, complete with sommeliers, as they wined and dined from the safety of their homes. I’ve never felt so fulfilled in my career as I sat at the restaurant and watched 40 plus people enjoy dinner over Zoom and interact with one another as though they were together in our dining room.
We still offer family-style meals to our customers, and I am proud to report we have not raised prices. We understand the hardships our customers continue to face, and we want to be able to feed their families as affordably as possible.
As a community and industry, we must continue to work together. We are responsible to both our guests and staff to do everything in our power to keep our doors safely open. It is too often I hear restaurants are no longer requiring staff to wear masks or disregarding recommended guidelines completely. If this continues and a second lockdown order is issued, we only have each other to blame. As an industry, we’ve always gone above and beyond to ensure we serve food safely, and now should be no different.
I have been blessed to work with the most amazing managers and staff who care as much about the restaurant as much as I do. I look forward to the future and the day we can all look back on 2020 as just a memory. However, I will say that despite the nightmare 2020 has been at times, there is a silver lining. I’ve watched our industry come together, particularly through our membership at the LRA – we never stopped caring, sharing, or helping each other.
Acadiana Chapter President