Opening during COVID-19: How some businesses are making it work

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Gerardo Munoz knew opening a business during a global pandemic would be stressful. On May 4, Munoz opened Nieves Allende’s second location in the Provo Towne Centre.

“Our main goal of opening during all this was to give our customers the opportunity to enjoy a treat and hopefully forget for just a little bit how hard this pandemic hit every one of us,” he said.

Nieves Allende is an authentic Mexican ice cream shop that originally opened in Payson in July 2019.

“We knew opening would include a lot of changes, but it is very rewarding to see how our entire team adapted to the changes quickly,” he said.

Nieves Allende previously had only done in-person ordering. Social distancing requirements forced the company to move its ordering to phone and text.

Communicating this change to customers was a challenge as was figuring out the right amount of staff needed after removing dine-in services.

For many businesses, another challenge was deciding whether to move forward with an opening. Most businesses begin preparing to open months in advance. Backdoor BRGR, located inside Heber Hatchets in Provo, began construction over a year ago.

Backdoor BRGR, located inside Heber Hatchets on University Avenue in Provo opened in March and has adapted to COVID-19 restrictions. The restaurant is one of many businesses that have opened during the outbreak. (Preston Crawley)

Despite new restrictions and challenges, owner Greg Mecham decided they may as well continue as planned.

“There were some difficult decisions to make and things we really didn’t have experience (with),” Mecham said.

Backdoor BRGR is more of a destination restaurant, he said, and had no previous business following or takeout and delivery systems set up.

Mecham said he had to figure out what type of services Backdoor BRGR would offer, how to sign up with third-party delivery services like DoorDash and how best to spend advertising dollars.

“COVID-19 forced our hand in developing good communication with different delivery services,” said Mecham.

The COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns caused businesses to scramble to adapt and threw many into unknown territory.

Brooker’s Founding Flavors Ice Cream owner Brian Brooker believes his new Provo location’s success is partly because of how quickly he reacted to changes.

“I was very fast to respond and reformat my whole business structure overnight,” he said.

Brooker immediately set up a drive-through and put out extra signs and event tents. Since Brooker’s Founding Flavors already had a location in Vineyard, Brooker said online ordering and third-party delivery service partnerships were already in place.

Unlike many businesses and restaurants, Brooker did not alter his operating hours, remaining open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The Provo location, located directly south of BYU campus, opened on April 24 and by night two had already outperformed the Vineyard store.

Decreasing sales led many businesses to cut employees, but Brooker said he’s had to hire more. “It’s more labor-intensive to run a drive-through and curbside delivery.”

Brooker said as restrictions continue to loosen, he will continue to adjust.

“With the success we’re having right now, I’m already starting to look into possibly remodeling to facilitate more customers,” he said. “I see good problems ahead to be solved.”

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