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Local Restaurants Adapt As Stay At Home Order Continues

Baldovin Commercial Development

In an effort to stay afloat during the stay at home order, restaurants continue to adapt.

Slow Hand BBQ in Peoria Heights made the decision to close when the executive order went into effect. Co-owner Rob Mathisen said most important to them was social responsibility and doing their part to keep the community safe. Also important was their responsibility to the food itself.

Mathisen said their products are fresh, farm to table and smoked daily. They didn’t have the means to invest hundreds of dollars each day into the products, in hopes that the customers would feel safe ordering takeout.

But the restaurant recently made the decision to re-open for curbside pickup on their busiest days – Fridays and Saturdays. Mathisen said maintaining their relationships with local farmers was a key deciding factor.

“When the farmers are walking in your door saying, 'Hey, when can we get an order?' That plays heavy on the decision making too,” said Mathisen.

Head Chef and Pitmaster Kyle Wilkinson said Slow Hand partners with two local farmers out of Fairbury, Ill., for every ounce of meat they smoke.

“At Slow Hand honestly, there’s nothing more important to our quality level, than the relationship we have with our local farmers," Wilkinson said. "The product is just incredible."

He said after a few weeks of being closed, it became important to maintain those relationships.  The restaurant felt the need to open back up, in order to support the supply chain that relies on restaurants like theirs to survive.

Slow Hand is now open for curbside pickup on Fridays and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wilkinson said upon announcing the reopening, the social media response was reassuring. Their customers have made it clear there’s no chance of wasting any food – something he calls a cardinal sin. Last Saturday, Slow Hand sold out before even opening for curbside pickup.

Another area restaurant, Pho Noodle House in East Peoria, tried to stay open for about a week after the executive order took effect. When sales weren’t enough to keep up with costs, they decided to close and wait it out. 

Pho Noodle House recently reopened for pickup and delivery. General Manager Houston Mach said that's thanks to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“We wouldn’t have been able to open if we didn’t get the [Paycheck Protection Program], that has been part of the stimulus package,” said Mach.

Mach said their staff is overjoyed to be able to come back to work, and the customers are happy too. 

“We’re getting a lot of support from our customers and our community. We put a Facebook post out there and we’re getting crazy feedback,” said Mach.

Pho Noodle House is open for curbside pickup and delivery Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, the restaurant Desi Exotic Nation – or DEN – chose to remain open throughout the stay at home order. Co-owner Raj Uddavolu said even before the order went into effect, they were thinking about how this might affect the restaurant. But they were more concerned about the health of their customers and employees than about the financial impact.

Uddavolu said they made the decision to remain open, but when revenue dropped 70%, they decided to scale back by stopping their lunch service for a while. 

It took a few weeks for sales to increase to about 50% of their usual revenue. Now, they're offering lunch once again.

Uddavolu said the staff at DEN are very committed to the community and value that support. He said DEN does everything from scratch, buying ingredients from around the community and supporting local farmers whenever possible, to make their modernized Indian dishes. He adds that during this pandemic the DEN staff has taken even more measures to ensure the food is clean and safe to maintain their usual highest quality standards.

Uddavolu said DEN looks forward to introducing Peoria to new flavors soon as it plans for a new menu. He said the DEN menu changes every three months and when the Peoria County Health Department allows, DEN intends to involve the community in selecting new menu items through a tasting event.

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Daniel Musisi is WCBU's Assistant Audio Director. He's also the host of our daily newsmagazine All Things Peoria.