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The challenges and successes of opening a restaurant during COVID-19

The pandemic has caused some businesses to shut their doors for good. The economic recession left restaurants that bustled with customers to be nothing more than pick-up spots for delivery drivers.

However, some businesses opened or had their start in the pandemic.

Wing work is open daily from 11 am to 7 pm except Sunday when they’re open from 12 pm to 6 pm. Photo via Google Images.

Wing Work

The beginning of the pandemic forced restaurants and businesses to close their doors just as the Boyds were working hard to open theirs.

Alicia and Azadia Boyd opened their restaurant, Wing Work, in June of 2020 — almost three months later than originally planned.

Alicia Boyd, owner of the Wing Work restaurant in the Northwoods Mall, faced quite a few challenges while the world was on lockdown.

“We ran into issues because places like the sign store stopped production, [so] we couldn’t get a sign,” Boyd said. “A lot of places were not answering their phones … we had to stay on our toes and constantly call people.”

It was frustrating for Boyd to continually delay their opening day.

“That was the scariest part; that was the toughest part,” Boyd said. “We had to continue just to stay hopeful.”

Fortunately, Wing Work has found some success along the way and has found loyal support in the Peoria community.

“Our biggest success has been the way people have embraced us as a family,” Boyd said. “The way that people wanted to support and help a business … this town has really come together during the pandemic.”

Wing Work is looking into finding a second location with more sit-down tables and continuing their success that they have worked to grow.

Close to Campustown, Dang Banh Mi is open daily except Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm. Photo by Morgan Patrick.

Dang Banh Mi & Poke

Dang Banh Mi & Poke in Campustown has also been navigating the pandemic, and Nhung Dang, the wife of the owner, has experienced it firsthand.

After a short soft opening on March 12, 2020, the restaurant was required to close its doors and only serve carry-out and delivery service.

“I still remember that day; it was such a unique situation,” Dang said.

After having to remove dine-in options, the restaurant was struggling to get up and running again.

“It was hard for us to get our name out there and let people know we exist,” Dang said. “For a new restaurant with no customer base, it was even harder during COVID-19.”

Despite the marketing challenges during a pandemic, the slow start was beneficial. Their team was able to address the kinks of its workflow process, namely having only carryout, to make operations more efficient and train great employees.

It has been a little over a year since Dang Banh Mi & Poke has opened and the owner has high hopes for the future.

“I am hoping we can get more customers and tell people that there is a poke and boba restaurant in Peoria,” Dang said.

 

Earnie’s Dairy Dream is located at 2600 SW Jefferson Ave, Peoria, IL 61605. Photo via Google Images.

Ernie’s Dairy Dream

Co-owner Dan Stambaugh has been working hard to satisfy customers after reopening Ernie’s Dairy Dream earlier this month after years of operation in Peoria, experiencing difficulties with supplies and employment as costs have increased 30 percent.

With rising food prices and higher minimum wage, Stambaugh has had to make some adjustments. The new procedures that ensued have been demanding for the restaurant.

“Rethinking how you are going to do things with masks, hand sanitizers and such has been a challenge,” Stambaugh said.

However, Stambaugh has learned lessons from the pandemic.

“We are a cook-to-order place, so it takes a little longer and people have a lot more patience since 2019,” Stambaugh said.

With lots of positive reviews on Facebook and eager customers, Stambaugh is hoping that his great team will keep Ernie’s up and running.

“In the future, I want to keep the employees I got,” Stambaugh said. “We have a real good crew right now with good kids that want to work. I want to keep that tradition and hire local.”

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