Dothan is a restaurant town. But in the shadow of an ever-changing pandemic where customers rethink dining out and other activities, restaurants have seen their business drop off and are being forced to make their own changes.
Barely a week after Alabama reported its first case of COVID- 19, local eateries are changing their hours, seating patrons farther apart and even offering new ways for diners to get their orders.
“We’re just trying to adapt and stay alive basically,” said Chris Bradshaw, owner of The Blue Plate Restaurants in Dothan.
A lot of local restaurants that had not previously offered a curbside option have started doing so this week. KBC in downtown Dothan and Corks & Cattle in Enterprise have implemented curbside. The Cellar in Dothan has placed hand sanitizer on each table and also offers curbside for takeout orders as well as delivery on larger orders, according to a Facebook post.
To accommodate those practicing social distancing, The Blue Plate is now offering delivery within Dothan on orders from a new family menu placed before 4 p.m. Customers can order meals to feed two people ($20 plus tax) or four people ($40 plus tax), selecting an entrée and sides with bread, tea, and the dessert of the day included.
If you don’t meet the 4 p.m. cutoff for delivery, the restaurant also is offering curbside pickup on family and regular menu orders.
The Blue Plate has closed some of its tables to allow for more space between diners and has adjusted its hours to give staff more time for cleaning each evening. The restaurant’s west side location near Flowers Hospital will remain closed Saturdays but will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday. The south side location will be open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Both locations will be open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We do have employees who rely on this income, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure they stay employed and we stay open for business,” General Manager Brittney Robinette said. “We’re going to go down swinging. We have no plans to close these doors until somebody tells us, comes in here and says, ‘Shut the doors.’ We’re going to remain open, and we’re going to maintain as normal as we can.”
At Zack’s Family Restaurant on Headland Avenue in Dothan, owner Zack Whaley said business began to drop Sunday. The restaurant hasn’t changed its hours — 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday through Friday — but has had to adjust work schedules.
“We’ve shorted our staff a little bit to accommodate the new volume level because it’s terrible,” Whaley said Wednesday. “It’s probably 30% down, maybe 25%. ... Last week was a good week, but all of sudden Sunday it hit us hard and we’re accommodating for that.”
Along with doing more sanitizing and adjusting schedules, the popular meat-and-three restaurant is offering a curbside pickup to customers who call in to-go orders. And if you pay over the phone with a credit card, you don’t have to wait for change.
“If they’ve got cash, we may have to run back and forth but that’s all right, too,” Whaley said. “We’ll do whatever we have to do to make that sale and to keep people working.”