Entrepreneur diaries with Stephanie Byrd: Back in business

 

This is part of an ongoing series where Model D talks with local entrepreneurs as the navigate the local business landscape in the wake of the novel coronavirus. Read Stephanie's first diary entry here.

During my daily walks on the riverfront, I’m often stopped by people who want to know: When is Flood’s Bar & Grille going to reopen?

Flood’s and The Block have been closed for two months (we briefly offered curbside pickup at the end of March before closing up again). While several restaurants in Detroit have offered curbside pickup and delivery since the pandemic, I was skeptical it could be a profitable model for our businesses. We were not created to be a carryout-only model.

But this week after talking to a few people in the industry, I think there is room for us to grow and develop there. So after several weeks of being closed and not making any money (and my parents getting and beating COVID-19), today we are reopening Flood’s for carryout and delivery. We’ll see how things go at Flood’s before reopening The Block.

We’re offering a limited menu — mostly dinners like shrimp, wings, catfish, and, of course, lamb chops — and testing it out right now to gauge feedback. The challenge has been trying to figure out a sweet spot regarding price. We have to charge a little bit more because of added expenses, but we also don’t want to charge too much because everyone’s just trying to get by at this time.

The process to reopen has been more nerve-racking than I expected. The biggest thing for me right now is coordinating COVID-19 tests for our team members who will be working. Some of our employees are scared to get tested. Others don't have transportation. Some don't have a valid ID. But we are requiring everyone to get a test to ensure everyone’s safety.

We’re also taking every precaution to make sure customers can get their food safely. We’ll be serving from our side door, which is never used, and we are installing a hygiene barrier so people will just have to walk up and we can slide their food underneath safely. And of course, all staff will be wearing masks and prepared with plenty of hand sanitizer.

We’re also looking ahead. We’ve applied for a carryout license and we’ve been discussing how to make cocktail packages and how to brand them. At The Block, alcohol is the big money maker so we are thinking of ways to continue offering that experience when people can’t enjoy a cocktail or beer at our bar.

We’re also talking a lot about outdoor dining. At Flood’s, we’re looking at moving our patio over to the Lafayette side to have more visibility and to give customers that feeling of being a part of something instead of off to the side. Outdoor dining will be a little more challenging at The Block. We never offered it before because the QLine limits the number of seats we can have out there but having that option will allow us to seat more diners. Whereas Flood’s can accommodate 200 customers indoors, The Block is at the other end of the spectrum with a capacity of 70.

We’ve crunched the numbers and if we can reopen at 50%, we can make it work. But if the state government only allows us to open at 25-30% it wouldn’t be worth opening our doors. So we think we could be settling in for carryout for a longer haul than the average restaurant. But we’ve been taking a lot of steps and being intentional about our strategy to make it work.

This week I'm hopeful. You just have to take some extra measures, but we can move forward. Everyone seems to be ready to move on. And best of all, my parents are in a great mood. They're happy. And they're staying put at home.

As a family, we are taking a lot of time just to relax. On Memorial Day, my sister and I hung out at Belle Isle for the whole day. So it hasn't been all work. Thankfully, we’ve been taking the time to appreciate this slow period because we'll be working all the time soon. And we’re ready.

As told to Dorothy Hernandez

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