It’s no secret that local restaurants were hard hit by the COVID-19 quarantine, and Crestline Bagel was certainly amongst them. Even as they closed their dining room and foot traffic severely decreased in Crestline Village, though, other business came from unexpected places—including a local organization looking to feed healthcare workers while also supporting local eateries. To learn more about the ups and downs of the bagel business in quarantine, we chatted with the COO Kendra Robinson about it all.
How did the COVID-19 initially affect Crestline Bagel’s operations?
In the first few weeks it was overwhelming because we had to cut hours because people weren’t getting out as much and buying our products. We closed our dining room down before the standards and were just doing to-go. Our next step was creating curbside service. Customers would call in their orders initially. That was overwhelming, so we setup online ordering, which has been a huge help to cut down on our contact with people and made it a smoother ordering process for our customers. We ended up closing our downtown location because Innovation Depot was closed, and we had to lay off our employees. That is where we do our catering and prep for our other locations.
How did your partnership with Care Health come about?
They called our downtown location, and I happened to be there. We were the first restaurant they had reached out to, and my first response was that would be great to bring back employees. They were looking for ways to feed healthcare workers as they were working long shifts and not able to leave the floor to get lunch and dinner and to also help restaurants that were hurting. We were excited to help in some way even though we were struggling ourselves.
What did it look like to serve healthcare workers?
Madison Kerns at Urban Avenues would text or email me an order, and now we have made hundreds of meals for health care works. Orders have been anywhere from 30 to 136. Most of ours have gone to UAB and we have fed the emergency department. We have gotten thank you letters in the mail from several different workers, and it allowed us to bring back employees at our downtown store.
How was quarantine affected bagel orders?
We have had days where we run out of bagels but our customers have been very understanding in working us. We were opening a little later and worked with a limited menu for several weeks with fewer bagel flavors, and our staff’s hours were cut short. The majority of our business, probably 70 percent, is take-out to start with, so I think that was a big plus. Before people mostly got breakfast before school or snacks after school, but now we find when people come they are stocking up. We have sold more dozens of bagels and sandwiches for families and neighbors.
What silver linings have there been in this for your business?
Our oatmeal cream pie and our Conecuh sausage and cheddar biscuits have become more popular. I think it’s because they are scrolling through the menu more than when they come into the store. Our bagel shipping orders have also increased. You have always been able to do order them that way on our website, but we have shipped several orders from Florida to Chattanooga to Mobile now. We place them in freezer bags and they ship overnight, and they are good for a month or so. We have one customer whose son lives here, and we ship three dozen bagels to him once a month.