Truckee Tavern & Grill, ROCO COMO – Navigating Three Businesses Amid COVID-19
Truckee Tavern & Grill opened in 2014. Last year, the business’s co-owners opened their second restaurant ROCO in June, followed by their third in September – COMO, under the same roof but run separately. When they began analyzing the businesses they knew they'd have to drastically scale back operations immediately at each of their locations.
“Initially my concerns were the same as most business owners. I was worried about the financial viability of my business, the ability of my business to stay relevant in the changing economy, my employees and the economic impact closing would have on them and the overall economic impact that closing an entire community/country would have on everyone,” St. Martin said.
Strategic Pivots in Operations
The restaurateurs decided to stay open with limited hours, limited menus, and a bare-bones staff of themselves and their head chefs.
“I immediately evaluated each business and focused on reducing all costs by talking to vendors, landlords and utility companies, to see what our fixed or necessary costs would be. I laid all my employees off with the exception of the executive chef at both restaurants.”
Their Point-of-Sale (POS) system, Toast, was vital in deciding to stay open because it has built-in online ordering capabilities and its own takeout app. He encourages other business owners looking to install POS systems to look into platforms like Toast that offer more seamless functionality at a lower monthly cost.
“It can be super difficult to get out of existing POS contracts – we’ve had a hard time before and know other owners who can’t get out of their contracts, but if someone doesn’t have a POS system yet, that’s a different story.”
They reached their clientele through social media and MailChimp email campaigns to raise awareness of hours and regularly changing menus.
“What we saw was 98% decrease in sales…the direct result of a cultural change to reduce the risk of COVID-19. I think the business methods we introduced were born out of the necessity. We needed to reduce overhead as much as possible.”
Even if both businesses are financially secure for the time being, they continue to find ways to supplement income, so that if their timeline is off, they can last longer during these times.
Tips for Small Business Owners
Stay on Top of Your Business: Know exactly what you spend and be creative in finding areas to save money or ways to adjust business operations to meet current demand.
“Know your numbers. Know your customer. Be flexible. This is a great time to do something off-brand, as long as it’s something the consumer wants.”
Don’t Let Up: Go straight to your landlords, don’t take the property management company’s answer; this is bigger than that.
“Just don’t let up. It’s ruthlessness that you have to have a bit. Try to create empathy in the situation and call everybody. I don’t care if it’s as small as your reservation platform, vendors, I think I even called my dishwasher rental company and asked for forgiveness – every bill you have, you have to call.”
Looking Forward: We’re in this Together
In the future, St. Martin said he can see needing to change capacity with fewer seats, which would result in a lot less revenue.
“And if you’re doing less revenue, how many restaurants can really survive, especially in this area? When it’s busy everyone is doing okay, when it’s not, not everyone is doing okay.”
St. Martin is focused on being as helpful and collaborative among fellow area business owners as possible, while everyone navigates new ways of doing business on the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“One way that we can get through this is to share our experiences. Now more than ever, we as business owners are in this together and should be willing to help our fellow entrepreneurs.”