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It’s Like Opening All Over Again (and Again)

Posted in From the Owners

HOW’S IT GOING?

Every day I talk to an old friend or acquaintance and they ask “How’s it going?”

It’s a friendly inquisition, but always leaves me a bit perplexed how to answer. Honestly, I’m tired. My sleep schedule is out of whack and I don’t know what day it is half the time. In fact, until yesterday, I had no idea this was “Memorial Day Weekend.” I’m guessing this foggy-out-of-balance sense is true for many. 

In the context of running a couple of restaurants, the closest thing I can compare this experience to is the week and month that we opened our doors for the first time. I recall the day we hosted our “Friends and Family” preview night. We were serving on paper plates, hand-writing tickets, and running short on staff. (We started off with around 12-16 employees and needed to double it by the following week.) 

COVID-19

Fast forward 7 years and enter COVID-19.

Our entire team has had to re-think, re-learn, and re-execute. But compared to our initial opening, we are needing to do this over and over again. Something changes every week. And every week brings new dynamics and problems to solve. Here’s a rough breakdown of each week since this all began.

CHANGES

Week 1: Implement new cleaning protocols (i.e. figure out which disinfectants worked against the virus).
Week 2: Wait anxiously to discover if we qualify as an “Essential Business” and figure out exactly what this means. Figure out how to educate our customer base.
Week 3: Learn what “Social Distancing” means for businesses. Move to predominantly online ordering. Add texting, curbside pickup and delivery to our workflow..
Week 4: Develop an Easter Brunch that can be packaged and picked up in a box.
Week 5: Integrate additional technology to adapt to our new systems and processes.
Week 6: Train all employees to wear masks while working.
Week 7: Scan all employees for their temperature before they start work.
Week 8: Learn to navigate customers with masks.
Week 9: Learn to navigate customers without masks.
Week 10: Figure out how to start giving some employees some time off.
Week 11: Process the news that we will not be able to welcome customers to dine until June 26th. Up our production of take-home Meals To Go and our promotion of curbside pick-up.
Week 12: Discover that we can start welcoming customers to dine outside starting May 29th. (First, get really excited that we can be a sit-down restaurant again!) Then, start frantically trying to figure out what the regulations will be and how to implement additional new systems and protocols, while still managing to provide great service and a memorable experience.

But these are just logistics. 

FATIGUE

The bigger issue at hand is fatigue. Sure, our employees are tired, but they are also thrilled to have work at all. What I’m really referring to is our collective cultural fatigue. Most people are now venturing outside their homes and looking for a taste of normalcy. 

Some folks seem weary of new systems and get frustrated when they can’t figure out what someone is saying from behind a homemade mask. Others are just glad to be outside. They don’t mind the new hassles that come with managing this virus that seems here to stay for the time being. 

Lots of us are somewhere in between. We bounce from project to project, ride alternating waves of motivation and weariness, and frustration and hope.

OUR BEST

I keep repeating an old friendly saying to myself that continues to keep me sane: “We’re all doing the best we can with what we have to work with.” I believe this to be true. And every week, as we watch for changing news that applies especially to Illinois restaurants, we are aiming to do the best we can with whatever the new reality is, both for our employees and our customers. 

We know each of you are managing weekly shifts in reality as well, and so we are so grateful for how you are bearing with us as we have a new protocol or system almost every time you come in to see us these days. Regardless of whether we are telling you that you need a mask now or we’re directing you to a different door to exit, we are so glad to see you!

This series is written and maintained by Bob Davidson, who is the co-owner of Blackberry Market. His wife, Anna Davidson, is the other half and the “true boss” and primary operator. Bob’s prior occupation was a Creative Producer at a branding and strategic communications agency (responsible for Blackberry’s brand). As you might guess, Bob now oversees most of the writing, branding, and communication needs at Blackberry. 
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