Editor’s note: Our series Enterprising Spirit documents how businesses and workers are managing the economy’s slow return to life after its sudden shutdown in March – and adapting to new challenges ahead.
Perry Vinson rolled up his sleeves the moment Gov. Jay Inslee announced that restaurants would have to cease dine-in services.
Like many restaurants, True Legends Grill, which Vinson owns, beefed up its take-out services, immediately launching a website that allowed both curbside pickup as well as delivery through DoorDash.
Vinson wanted to offer a reasonably priced option that would feed a family, so he began offering a variety of family platters – burgers, spaghetti, chicken, macaroni and cheese, fish – that could feed 4-6 people for $40, and they were immensely popular. The profit margin on the platters isn’t large, but Vinson said now is not the time to jack up the prices on the community.
Orders through the website came to account for about 50% of his delivery and takeout business, and he also arranged new phone lines so customers were less likely to receive a busy signal.
Still, the Liberty Lake restaurant at 1803 N. Harvard Rd. was down in sales about 70% during the closure. Now that the restaurant has been able to reopen at 50% capacity, he said business has been booming. He said that’s largely because he’s been able to expand his patio seating to 40-50 people, even with the smaller capacity requirements.
“People like to be outside because of the coronavirus, and by all appearances, it’s better to be in the outdoors because there’s less possibility of transmission,” Vinson said. “Once we move into the additional phases, we’re going to be able to handle about 80-90 people outside, which will be very nice. When the weather’s nice, people love to be outside, so we’re still waiting for summer to come on.”
Business is also good, he said, because some Liberty Lake restaurants haven’t reopened, sending True Legends some of their business.
“I really hope everybody can weather through this,” Vinson said. “It’s going be tough on the industry, there’s just no question.”
Even with business up, True Legends has a major hurdle to overcome. In addition to reduced capacity, food costs are up due to stress on the supply chain, something he hopes will decrease over time.
But barring unforeseen situations, he said his restaurant will weather the storm.
When he bought the business 10 years ago, the Liberty Lake community embraced True Legends, Vinson said, in part because of its proximity to the Centennial Trail.
“People buy golf carts for transportation, and what’s nice is that they got that walking bridge to the Centennial Trail,” Vinson said, adding that there are usually a few golf carts in his parking lot every day.
Vinson said owning the building himself has been a saving grace. Receiving a Paycheck Protection Program loan has been another help.
“It’s not a lifeboat, it’s really a life ring in pretty choppy waters,” Vinson said. “So it’s wasn’t a cure all, but it certainly helped.”
Vinson said he empathizes with the struggle of downtown Spokane restaurants. He knows that the various entertainment venues – from movie theaters to concert venues – drives their businesses, and without that foot traffic, times are hard.
“I think everybody’s situation is a little bit different, and I do feel for a lot of those restaurants out there,” Vinson said. “I totally get some of the pressure that they’re under and why they wouldn’t be optimistic.”
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