Across Cy-Fair, locally owned restaurants have been forced to adapt operations this week after Harris County officials announced eateries would have to limit business to takeout and delivery options only for 15 days starting March 17.
At The Cuppo Coffee & Tea near Jersey Village, co-owner Tam Duong said she saw more than 50% decrease in sales once this order went into effect in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The coffee shop is operating with reduced hours and a reduced staff during this time.
“It has been affecting our business significantly,” she said. “It happened so fast. We’re adjusting on a daily basis, and everything is so uncertain.”
Duong said she is thankful customers continue to place orders for pickup and orders via the Uber Eats platform, as other coffee shops in the Houston area have temporarily closed their doors. Many customers coming into the shop are practicing caution, keeping their distance and even sanitizing their credit cards before and after payments, she said.
While Tam and her brother Sivin, who co-own The Cuppo together, both have full-time jobs outside of running the coffee shop, she said she is more concerned about the staff members who depend on income from this job. On March 19, The Cuppo owners launched a “virtual tip jar” to help support their baristas.
“I really hope this is only going to be a short time and that we can hang in there,” Duong said. “Even if you can’t come in, just call us and place an order. Support us, and tip your barista generously.”
At Hailey’s Italian Restaurant on Barker Cypress Road, owner Yasmin Maldonado said she had been preparing her staff for weeks for the effects of the looming pandemic.
The restaurant staff was seeing sales drop in the days leading up to Harris County’s order, she said in a phone interview March 18.
“The coronavirus news kept on coming up, and we just saw a decrease in traffic,” she said. “These last two weeks have been like a nightmare for us. People were not coming in at all inside the restaurant, and we knew that it was because of this virus outbreak—that people were panicking.”
In addition to being cautious as to not contract the coronavirus, worry has since progressed and individuals could be facing job insecurity among other factors to keep them from eating out, Maldonado said.
As of March 18, the Italian eatery is offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery through DoorDash or Favor. Maldonado leads a small staff of about six employees and has emphasized the importance of sanitary practices in the kitchen, she said.
Neighboring businesses are experiencing the same drop in foot traffic, and Maldonado said she is concerned the return to normal sales for local businesses will take longer than expected.
“We depend on our clientele, and we want people to be happy with our service,” she said. “We want to encourage people not to be afraid of anything, just come out here and support the little local restaurants because this is all we have. People stop buying from us, then it’s over for us; it’s over for our employees.”
In addition to looking out for their employees, local food businesses also may be having trouble tracking down ingredients that are usually in higher supply.
After running Jersey Bagels out of his home since 2018, Cory Yates opened a Huffmeister Road storefront last fall. He said the last two weeks has brought a 20%-30% decrease in sales for the store as more news about the coronavirus has come out.
But the first day of takeout-only orders brought about 100% revenue for a typical Wednesday, and he said for the most part the store has been experiencing “business as usual” but with less staff to make up for lost revenue.
Jersey Bagels employs nine people, and Yates said his biggest concern is ensuring they are being paid enough to support themselves and their families. While customers have been happy the shop was open this week, he said he is unsure of what the coming weeks might bring.
Jersey Bagels will be open during its regular operating hours and offer curbside pickup in addition to takeout orders as long as Yates can find supplies, he said.
“It’s just tough,” he said. “We’ve got to make tough decisions on hours for our employees, and it’s hard finding supplies.”