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McHenry County restaurants prepare for carryout, delivery

Area restaurants preparing for carryout, delivery in light of state mandate

Crystal Lake Rib House floor manager Sharon Wolf wipes down a table Monday at the restaurant in Crystal Lake. A mandatory shutdown order by Gov. JB Pritzker will force all restaurants and bars to close their dine-in services at the close of the business day on Monday, and remain in affect for the remainder of the month.
Crystal Lake Rib House floor manager Sharon Wolf wipes down a table Monday at the restaurant in Crystal Lake. A mandatory shutdown order by Gov. JB Pritzker will force all restaurants and bars to close their dine-in services at the close of the business day on Monday, and remain in affect for the remainder of the month.

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As restaurants deal with the state mandate to end dine-in service, effective 9 p.m. Monday, many are having to deal with the new normal of only having carryout and delivery for customers.

Sallie LoBue, who, along with her family, owns 750°Cucina Rustica at
7 Jandus Road in Cary and Zaza’s Tavola Italiana at 5047 Shoreline Road in Lake Barrington, already knows what it’s like to lose business revenue because of circumstances outside her control. A fire in 2018 caused 750°Cucina Rustica to close for 3½ months.

And of the coronavirus, even before the dine-in shutdown announced Sunday by Gov. JB Pritzker, business has gone down for both of her restaurants by about 40%.

“We stepped up,” LoBue said. “Definitely, [we did] more rigorous cleaning, you know, but obviously it is what it is.”

The owners were prepared to limit reservations, maybe have a little more space between tables, but then the
shutdown happened.

Starting Tuesday, both places will just be open for delivery and pickup via Grub Hub. Pickup orders can be secured by calling the restaurants or using Grub Hub.

“It’s unfortunate because although we’ve always offered delivery and pickup, that hasn’t been our primary business,” LoBue said.

Between the two restaurants, LoBue said they probably employ 40 to 50 people. Because they really only need someone to prepare food, LoBue said, some staff has been temporarily laid off.

“It will be very, very bare bones,” LoBue said about what she called a “heartbreaking” decision to make. “There’s too much uncertainty, because we don’t even know how we’re going to pay our bills.”

“Some of them are high school kids, you know, they work hard, they’re saving for college and they’re saving for cars and various things,” LoBue said. “There’s people that are supplementing their family income that depend on that [paycheck].”

However, LoBue said, they have been contacting each staff member personally to let them know this really is temporary.

Despite the circumstances, LoBue said, people have been really supportive.

“We’re lucky to be in the communities that we’re in,” LoBue said. This includes people organizing groups to order dinner together. “I’m hoping at least we’ll be busier than we anticipate.”

In the meantime, LoBue said, the restaurants will be well-stocked with to-go containers and bags that are good for the environment.

LoBue said as far as people helping local businesses during this time, all delivery orders are great, and if people are gathering at home, she encourages them to consider catering, as they have family meal packages available.

Kathy Ehorn, of the Alibi Pub and Grub in Wonder Lake at 4117 E. Wonder Lake Road, said the restaurant and bar has never done delivery before.

“It’s going to be all new for us,” she said.

People can call in their order and have it delivered, or call in and pick up their food.

Ehorn said Monday they are working out how to do delivery with their regular employees.

When she first heard about the end to dine-in service, Ehorn said she was disappointed, and concerned about how she was going to handle this.

“We’re taking a hit because of the liquor sales, but hopefully we’re going to make up for that with food sales,” she said.

Although Alibi has done pickup orders before, this will be a bit different.

“People will call in and we run [their order] out to them,” Ehorn said. “We never did that before.”

For Ehorn, there were a lot of unknowns Monday morning, such as how the lack of dine-in customers was going to affect business.

“I’m not sure how [staffing is] gonna work,” Ehorn said. “It’s going to affect our bartenders, mostly – they have to cut back hours – but we’ll figure that out. I want to keep everybody employed so they have something to come back to.”

Ehorn said this whole thing will be an unfortunate learning experience.

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t last very long, and we can go back to normal hours and normal sales,” she said.

Though Alibi’s hours were typically 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., without the bar service, they are going to be open from noon to 9 p.m.

Dave Faccone, owner of the Crystal Lake Rib House at 540 E. Terra Cotta Ave., said that with all that’s been happening with the coronavirus, they weren’t sure how this past weekend would go. On Friday, they were packed, as well as Saturday night. Faccone said Sunday morning started out great.

“And then once that announcement [to stop dine in service] was made, maybe six, eight people walked in the door for the rest of the day,” Faccone said. “It’s as if it went to a lock down immediately.”

The Rib House does use three delivery services, UberEats, GrubHub and Door Dash, as well as doing takeout and having a pickup window. So it is something the restaurant is used to, though only about 10 to 15 % of their business comes from these services.

On Monday night, Faccone said, they would be re configuring the equipment in the kitchen so all of it flows to the take out window, and not the dining or banquet rooms, so they can serve people better.

“I can’t have people waiting ... calling ahead and still having to wait to pick up their order,” Faccone said. “I want to be able to have them call, and 15 minutes later they’re here and their order is ready to go. It’s the only way it’ll work.”

Faccone said he has been getting a lot of questions, especially since the establishment offers video gaming, which the state also is shutting down effective at 9 p.m. Monday.

Faccone said he is going to try to offer his servers and employees on the floor shifts at the takeout counter.

“I’m hoping that we need multiple people answering phones and packing takeout [orders].” Faccone said. “ If that’s the case, I can pay them an hourly wage, you know, and try to help them out. I’m not going to refuse anybody and I’ll divvy up the shifts accordingly.”

Still, he said, for the most part, this is going to be a “very difficult time.”

There are certain things he needs to figure out, such as how much inventory to order.

“Are we going to be crushed with takeout orders or are people just going to go lock down?” Faccone said. “It’s kind of hard to navigate waters that we haven’t been in before.”

Faccone does thinks his business will take a hit on the revenue side, though as a business owner he can get a loan, and there are always contingencies in the business plan.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to weather the storm by myself. I do have resources that I can go to if I need money,” Faccone said. His concern lies with the servers, and others who might not have these options.

“So many people in this industry, you know, the servers, they live check to check just like so much of America, people are in a panic mode in the industry saying, what can I do?” Faccone said.

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