This post was last updated on Apr 24, 2020.
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Atwater’s is a Baltimore, MD institution. It’s a five-location restaurant and bakery known for its sandwiches, pies, and soups, and they have a presence at 17 different farmer’s markets. Over their 21 years in business, they’ve cultivated a strong network of regulars — and these regulars are now doing whatever they can to support the staff they’ve come to know and love.
“Customers are stopping by daily to check up on the staff, and check up on the managers, and just ask how things are going,” said Michelle Nomides, the General Manager at Atwater’s Kenilworth location.
“We've had a customer write checks for each of our servers at one of our locations,” she added.
They’ve also seen an uptick in gift card sales from their community, as well as an increase in social media shout-outs from customers voicing their support of the restaurant.
“We've had a customer write checks for each of our servers at one of our locations.”
From the moment the coronavirus crisis began affecting cities across the country, the Atwater’s team knew they’d have to adapt quickly to remain successful and keep their staff and community healthy. They started donating pastries and coffee to their local hospitals to support the healthcare workers on the front lines of this crisis — but they also had to find a way to keep their business going.
They also began offering curbside pickup in addition to their normal online ordering, takeout, and drive-through services, well before the government mandated that restaurants go fully off-premise.
“It was pretty easy to implement,” said Nomides. The team made the signs, and they already had takeout parking spots designated from before the pandemic.
Another way that the Atwater’s team has risen to this challenge is by seriously increasing their customer communications on social media. Every day, they’re notifying their customers that they’re still open, and continually providing their hours of operation, phone number, and ways to order. It’s the best tool at their disposal to promote their expanded online ordering offerings and remain in the lives of their guests.
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We are still here, Baltimore!!!! - Place your curbside pick-up order online (link in our story) or over the phone - Place your delivery order through @ubereats or @grubhub - Place your order through Kenilworth’s drive-thru - We have the Atwater’s food you love PLUS bread, eggs and milk at most locations! 🍞🥚🥛 We can’t thank our customers enough for all the love and support so far. Remember to keep supporting your favorite local businesses at this time and to keep smiling!!! ❤️
As a way to increase revenue and support their customers at the same time, Atwater’s has ventured into selling grocery items through online ordering. “We've expanded our online menu to include many more of our retail items — our coffee, our jams, our breads, things that people would normally just come in and buy,” said Nomides. They’re also selling essentials like milk, bread, and eggs at cost.
Atwater’s has a strong focus on their staff’s happiness. They provide health insurance and paid time off to all full-time and eligible part-time employees. They even have an HR person, who has been instrumental during this crisis. They’ve covered all the staff’s healthcare for the whole month of April, and are encouraging staff to use PTO as needed.
Though Atwater’s, like most restaurants in major cities, had to lay off some of their staff, they’ve provided a support system for them. “We've encouraged our staff to claim unemployment as quickly as possible, even the ones that are still working part time for us,” said Michelle. “We've also continued to check up on the staff, see how they're doing, see if they need any help with the unemployment process.”
Because this situation is so unprecedented, the Atwater’s team is still making changes to their operations day to day. “We're still adjusting our hours to find the sweet spot — trying to figure out if we should open early, close later,” said Nomides.
Whether your restaurant has been limited in scope or forced to close in light of COVID-19, you're bound to have questions about where to turn and what to do next.
We just plan to keep making adjustments as needed. Things seem to be changing every day, but we are changing with them.
Thanks to the support from their community, Atwater’s is working hard to make this new normal work. “The plan is to continue with our delivery services through Uber, and grow our curbside delivery. And we just plan to keep making adjustments as needed. Things seem to be changing every day, but we are changing with them,” said Nomides.