Dec 19, 2020 1:04 AM

COVID 19: My Story-Episode 16-Tyler Davis transcript

Posted Dec 19, 2020 1:04 AM

Tyler Davis:

There's no place that sanitizes like restaurants already should be doing. In that sense, yeah. We were already pretty well set up to handle that type of thing. Yeah. Restaurants, they're always dealing with bacteria and viruses and stuff like that. That wasn't a new aspect to our business.

Nick Gosnell:

On this episode of COVID-19, My Story, we talked to Tyler Davis, the owner of Bogey's in Hutchinson, about how his business was affected and a little bit about how the restaurant industry was affected by the Coronavirus. Here is that conversation.

Nick Gosnell:

What have you been able to do at Bogey's to help keep your folks safe, and also those that come and get shakes and burgers?

Tyler Davis:

March feels like a long time ago, and it's not too far ago, but how I think businesses and individuals and people reacted to what was going on in March and early April is much different than how we are right now. We had our first COVID scare amongst my staff in the end of March. I had an employee whose mom was never tested because even at that time, testing was really difficult to come by, but she was just presumed to be COVID-positive. And just on that, we closed down completely for three weeks. There was just so many unknowns from an employer aspect. What happens if somebody would get sick in the restaurant? What happens to my staff? What happens if the customer feels like they may have gotten sick while at the restaurant?

Tyler Davis:

And so there was just so many unknowns, but I think us and a lot of other restaurants in town just closed down for a while, just out of almost panic, because we didn't know what to do. Since then, for me, the craziest thing throughout this has been, is we still almost have no guidance from where we were even in March, as a business owner. But at the same time, we all came to terms with the fact that we were going to have to get back into business. We were going to have to. I've got a family to feed, all my staff has a family to feed, and so we just had to muddle our way through it. And that is really strange just because I know what I've done is probably different than what the restaurant a block away from me has done, or the small business... We've all done our own individual things.

Tyler Davis:

We have our own little individual community and we're all just looking out for our own community. What I started doing, we would get some guidance from our food suppliers or big corporate accounts like Cisco. They would send us material that they thought was important because they were losing all their businesses with restaurants closing down. They're a huge corporation, they've got resources to guide restaurants on what they think they should be doing. And so it came pretty apparent pretty quickly that mask-wearing was important inside the restaurant. We work in these kitchen that are not designed to keep people apart and when they get busy, people get out of breath and they're breathing hard, and you've been in some kitchens where people are yelling at each other just because it's hard to hear. There's a lot of equipment going on, so it's not a great environment. And so we got some guidance about that pretty early on so when we reopened, we started wearing masks amongst the staff pretty much right away.

Tyler Davis:

And I have no idea if that helped or not. And then I received some really good, and I wish that this would have become a little more available, about our air conditioning system and our air flow within the building. Restaurants actually are at an advantage where most restaurants have big, giant hood fans that are on top of the building and they suck air out because we have all that hot equipment. And then we have air conditioners that are pulling fresh air outside, and you can balance those where you're pulling more air out of your building and pumping more fresh air in. And so we were set up really well, a lot of restaurants actually are, where you can keep the air from recirculating in your building. And I think that has really helped. We're now late to December, and as far as I can tell, I don't think there's been a single case of transmission between my staff.

Tyler Davis:

I've had people who have tested positive, but it's always come from some other point of contact that they've had. I haven't had a single case where I thought, "Oh, they got that from another employee." And I think that is probably the biggest reason, that we've got really good air flow in the building.

Nick Gosnell:

And obviously hand-washing is always huge in food service, but I'm sure even more so now.

Tyler Davis:

Yeah. It's not really more so now, because if we went to even more, it would became almost... In food service, you need to wash your hands after every time you change your gloves. And so you're either wearing a fresh set of gloves that you just washed your hands, or right after you take your gloves off, you wash your hands again. And so as far as the hand washing aspect and the cleanliness around... There's no place that sanitizes like restaurant already should be doing. In essence, we were already pretty well set up to handle thing. Yeah. Restaurants, they're always dealing with bacteria and viruses and stuff like that. That wasn't a new aspect to our business.

Nick Gosnell:

Normally, the spring and summer are when you make your money in the restaurant business, is when the weather is warm. And then when you get into the cold season, like we are now, and go on through the doldrums of January and February, you really quite often don't have a lot of business, speaking in general terms.

Tyler Davis:

Our busiest months are definitely the middle of the summer, then going into the fair time, is when we peak. And then after that, it's a pretty hard drop down.

Nick Gosnell:

Has COVID made that worse at all?

Tyler Davis:

Yeah. I think so far it's been a mild winter or December in particular, which has, I think, helped some restaurants, but I've seen business starting to drop off really a little bit before Thanksgiving, more than I would've expected otherwise. And just driving around town, you get a sense of how many people are out and we've lost, I would say, 15, 25% on already our downtime, which is never a position anybody likes to be in.

Nick Gosnell:

How much did not having the fair impact you?

Tyler Davis:

It didn't impact us a lot. We ran a lot of fairs specials, I think, which helped. A lot of people were looking... Once a year, they like getting that fried fair food, and we lost some. Our biggest days are typically the weekends of the fair, so the Friday, Saturday of those two weekends are our four busiest days typically. And so you lose all your busiest days, which is when you make way more money than you do any other day. When you stretch the money out, like what happened in September, we were a little bit busier during the week and not during the weekends. What happens is, even if the sales are almost the same, your profit is quite a bit less. And so losing the fair definitely hurt the bottom line, the profit overall, even if we didn't necessarily drop a ton in our overall revenue.

Nick Gosnell:

That's the part that I think, without giving away too much... Over the course of this past nine months, I've asked hospital folks exactly how many ventilators they have in their hospitals so I'm not afraid to ask a pretty pointed specific question, but I obviously don't want you to give away trade secrets or anything, but restaurants don't have a lot of margin to begin with.

Tyler Davis:

No, absolutely not. And that, I think, is another aspect that people aren't... When I talk about, "Okay, maybe our sales are the same," it's a big difference when almost... Well, right now we don't even have any dine-in service. When 100% of our sales are to-go, we eat up just a lot of our profit now, just in our to-go packaging. We've got different silverware that we have to put in. We have napkins, we have bags for everybody. We have to use t-shirt bags to hold it in. Those little things that cost pennies each time for each individual orders, that really adds up. And so even if you are making almost the same revenue, the cost of doing business has really gone up, and I'm sure for every restaurant in town, just because of all of those extra things that are eating up.

Tyler Davis:

And I don't think any restaurant owner was desperate to raise prices this year either. The cost of our hamburger meat was sky high in April. Yeah. We've been hit from both ends. Less people wanting to come in and higher prices coming in our back door too, and so it's been a double-edged sword for us.

Nick Gosnell:

We're far enough into this that maybe there's at least some idea of how it's supposed to work, although we haven't really been through the dead, dead winter time with the fully active virus here yet, so I suppose this is the first time round for that. But what you've learned over the last several months, what will you take away from that, that maybe when we get past COVID, if it ever happens, as much as we say that it's going to with vaccines and so on, when we get past this, what will you keep and what will you throw away, of the way that you had to do business over the last several months, and since 2020 got started?

Tyler Davis:

I don't know. I mean, I think at some point I would expect that we will no longer be masking completely, which honestly, for my staff, they will be happy about that. It's just hard to wear a mask for six, eight hours in a hot kitchen. It's not comfortable and it's a challenge. And especially, I employ a lot with teenagers and they would go to school for eight hours wearing a mask and then go to work for another six hours, and it became very difficult. But what I would love to see, but I just don't think it's going to happen, is our State Health Department, who does annual inspections of restaurants, would have given us earlier, more guidance about specifically what we need to do in response to COVID, and they never really did.

Tyler Davis:

They sent out some recommendations, like you shouldn't have your salad bar open, you shouldn't have self-serve buffet, if you have things set up on your counter for people to grab, take that off, but not specifically what we should be doing with our staff. They are in the best position because it takes politics out of it. The County commissioners, what they say, the governor, what she says, the Health Department is who we have always had to follow, and I've never thought, "Oh, this regulation that they're giving me is something politically motivated." And so they're just probably not designed to make protocols and regulations that quick within months, but hopefully they get exactly how they think the restaurants should be best practices and enforce that on us.

Tyler Davis:

That's typically how restaurants learn. If you've just started your business, they'll send the state health inspector before you open, who will really teach you the important thing about food safety. We've been dealing with the norovirus in restaurants for decades, and so we know how to respond. We know what to do to minimize the risk of spreading that in a restaurant, and hopefully the Health Department will become good at telling us what exactly, what protocols we need to have in place to make sure that we are not transmitting a disease like COVID-19 or anything that might come up in the future. I would love to see more guidance from the state Health Department.

Nick Gosnell:

It's important for people to know that there's more to your business than just figuring out how to get people in the door. It's also the cost side of things. That's such a deal that I think people sometimes just don't get.

Tyler Davis:

It's getting to the point where again, our food suppliers are... It's really difficult to get certain types of gloves again. It's really difficult to get certain types of to-go packaging. So I think we're entering back into a time where we were in, in April where I think things are going to become scarce and then things will become expensive. I would imagine from the restaurant industry, a number of places just saying, "I'm going to close up for a little while to get through this time period, because I can't make any money at all." So hopefully spring comes and hopefully everybody's in a position that they can open back up and be healthy and be good.

Nick Gosnell:

Our thanks to Tyler Davis from Bogey's in Hutchinson for talking to us about how COVID-19 affected his business. Also, our thanks to all of our guests on COVID-19, My Story. At least for now, we know that we're going to be stepping aside from COVID-19, My Story. We'll see if anything comes back in 2021, but at least for the holiday season, we're going to be stepping aside from COVID 19, My Story, but looking forward to hopefully being able to tell you other stories on hutchpost.com and your favorite podcast app.