Aboca's Italian Grill has been serving food to the people of Richardson for 16 years. But if business does not pick up, the owner says the restaurant may have to close for good.
Aboca’s was one of the few restaurants in Richardson Heights Shopping Center when it opened in 2004, owner Artur Pira said. He had developed a loyal following of customers from running restaurants in surrounding cities, and many would make the drive to Richardson to eat at Aboca’s, Pira said.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to close their dining rooms in mid-March, business at Aboca’s dropped by 90%, Director of Catering Jason McKee said. Since reopening at 25%, the restaurant has seen about 17% of the revenue it did pre-coronavirus, Pira said. While business has picked up some, it is still not steady enough to be sustainable, he added.
“We still have our regular customers coming in, but we don't have the traffic we used to have,” Pira said.
About 60% of Aboca’s customers are employees from Richardson companies, such as Texas Instruments, Pira said. Few have made the commute from their remote workplaces to eat at Aboca’s, and the restaurant is feeling the loss, Pira said. Those who live in Richardson can only do so much to support the city’s dense restaurant industry, Pira said.
“There's so many [restaurants], and there's so little [people],” he said.
Pira said he took out a line of credit as well as loans to ensure the restaurant stays open and keeps its staff. No employees were laid off, he said.
Aboca’s used to host several groups, such as rotary and book clubs, for weekly or monthly meetings. Businesses would use the restaurant to cater events. This portion of their revenue is completely gone, McKee said.
“That was probably 20% to 30% of our business,” he said.
To combat the loss of business, the restaurant had to make changes, Pira said. Instead of using third-party delivery services, which often charge service fees of up to 30% per order, the restaurant now does its own deliveries, McKee said. The restaurant is also looking into innovative ways to grow its customer base, such as through wine clubs and food subscription services.
“We are trying to find ways to reinvent ourselves because you never know how long this thing is gonna last,” Pira said.
Pira is grateful for the customers that have continued to patronize the restaurant during this crisis.
“We are tremendously thankful for all the support,” Pira said. “[All] I want is for this thing to be over, and we get to live our lives free and happy again.”
Owner of Aboca's says longtime Richardson restaurant could close if business does not improve
The business opened in the Richardson Heights Shopping Center 16 years ago. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact)