Wells said it was the most brutal thing he has ever done. The base group of 150 employees was whittled down in March to about 25 people, he said.
“We felt like the best thing for us to do was to consolidate down into one team,” he said. “We have a COVID-19 team, and those are the only people that work at the restaurant.”
Despite the layoffs, Wells said the well-being of his employees, both current and former, is still his No. 1 priority.
The remaining team members have taken it upon themselves to minimize risk of exposure to the coronavirus by self-isolating from everyone but each other. Some are staying in hotels, away from their families. Others are living with each other temporarily to ensure they are not coming into contact with anyone else, he said.
In addition, Wells has temporarily merged the two restaurants into one, marrying their menus and offering the most popular items from both out of one location.
At Rick’s, the team cooks the food, prepares the orders and delivers them to customers curbside or at customers' homes.
Harvest, which has been closed to the public, now serves as ground zero for feeding many of the restaurants’ current and former employees for free, Wells said. At the Harvest location, the team cooks family meals, including dinner for the night and lunch for the next day.
“People pull up, we stay 6 feet away, we check on them, we check on their families, and we see if they need anything,” Wells said. “If they need something, they can pick it up the very next day from us. If they need toilet paper, [if] they need some money—whatever they need, they can sit in their car and say, ‘I need this,’ and we will do everything we possibly can to get it to them.”
Wells said this has already proven to be a huge asset to these families. He estimates his crew gives out 40-50 meals a day to former employees and their families.
“It was so uplifting to see our employees and know that we are there for them, that we are going to be there with them this entire time, no matter how long it takes us to get through this unbelievable war that we are in,” he said.