Restaurants retool

To serve essential workers and the public

Written by Joe Stumpe

Rene Steven knew Spangles made the correct decision to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic when she saw a trucker park his 18-wheeler across the street and walk up to one of the chain’s drive-thru windows.

“We forget that people need to eat,” Steven, spokeswoman for Wichita-based Spangles, said.

Spangles restaurants are among the food and beverage operations that have remained open — with modifications in service — during the crisis.

Only Spangles’ drive-through windows are open at its 27 Kansas locations. Cashiers as well as cooks are wearing gloves and the former give out a sanitized paper towel with each order. “Customers can use it to sanitize their hands or the steering wheel,” Steven said. “It’s kind of a reminder, you know, that we get it.”

The first few days after local and state restrictions on movement were put into place were slow, but “now it’s just extremely busy,” Steven said.

The owners of Hurricane Sports Grill, at 13th and Tyler in west Wichita, say they’ve been pleasantly surprised by demand as well. The restaurant is offering take-out and catering as well as delivery through services such as Uber Eats, offering its full menu of burgers, wings, seafood and more from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Much of its business has come from people working for other companies deemed “essential” during the restrictions imposed by Gov. Laura Kelly.

“There are a lot of other smaller businesses (open),” he said. “They’re glad some local restaurants are open. There’s a large amount of people still working, (including) all the hospitals in town. They need to eat between 7 p.m. and six in the morning.”

While overall sales are down, staying open has allowed the restaurant to keep some of its employees on the payroll. Lopez said many people who are picking up food are being “very generous” tipping employees who bring the orders to their cars.

Perfect Plate, which primarily operated as a take-out business with locations in Maize and Wichita before the pandemic hit, has stopped that, but is still providing food to people who enroll in one of its multi-meal plans. Information is available at perfectplateict.com or by calling 316.779.8800.

“Actually, I set a new record today” for those orders, owner Kira Ottaway Watt said.

Watt is also selling gluten-free meals like her Cajun Tilapia and Orange Sesame Chicken at The Coop, a bakery, coffee shop and cooperative retail space at 104 N. Baltimore Ave. in Derby. “You can still go in and shop,” Watt said. “They’re allowing 10 people or less in at a time.”

Of course, man and woman can’t live on food alone. Jenny Dawn Cellars, an urban winery located in Union Station at 703 E. Douglas, has closed her business for on-premise drinking and eating but is selling bottles of wine to go. Customers can order by visiting jennydawncellars.com or by calling 316.633.3022. Jenny Dawn also ships wine within Kansas.

After running out of customer favorite “Wichita Passion” — which she promised to restock — in early April, owner Jennifer McDonald still had seven varieties to offer.

“You know, we wanted to just maintain relationships with our customers,” McDonald said of her decision to stay open. “I also wanted to keep my team employed. We’re hoping the pandemic passes quickly and we can go back to our normal business model approach.”

 
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