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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

South Hill’s Gordy’s Sichuan Cafe moving to takeout only: ‘The world has changed the way they eat out’

Leigh Riendeau, co-owner of Gordy’s Sichuan Café, said the business will suspend in-restaurant dining and focus on pickup and delivery only starting Tuesday.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Just two years ago, the owners of Gordy’s Sichuan Café expanded the dining room at their South Hill restaurant.

But the move hasn’t worked out amid soaring costs , along with the increasingly unpredictable business of running a restaurant. So on Tuesday, owners Leigh and Casey Riendeau will shift their entire focus to takeout and delivery and close the dining-in aspect of Gordy’s.

At the time of their dining room expansion project, Gordy’s was doing about half of its business to-go, Leigh Riendeau said.

When she and her husband, Casey Riendeau, purchased the business in 2013, they never intended to offer takeout.

“We never had to because there was consistency,” Casey Riendeau said. “But things have changed. The world has changed the way they eat out.”

The owners hope they’ll be able to return to in-person dining at some point. They said the cost of expanding the dining room did not affect their decision to close it.

“If we sell 200 meals during dinner, that is a really busy night,” Leigh Riendeau said. “That used to happen at least four times a month. It happened three times in all of last year.”

Higher product costs are especially gouging for the made-from-scratch Chinese restaurant because it requires particular ingredients that come from suppliers located a half a world away.

“We get a lot of specialty items from China, and we’ve had a shortage of products,” she said.

Casey Riendeau, who is also the head chef, said the issue has persisted since the trade war between former President Donald Trump’s administration and China in 2018.

“I couldn’t get any of my products, so I end up searching and trying hard to figure out where else to get them,” he said.

“And paying more for them,” Leigh Riendeau added.

In a move to stay afloat, the couple had to let go 15 of their 20-person staff. Nearly all of them were relatives.

“This is a family-run place. And by that I’m not saying they’re family to us like we’re pretend family,” she said. “They’re actually my children.”

The jobs lost also hit cousins, in-laws and dear friends, she said.

“That was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done,” she said.

The staff reduction was an effort to lower operating costs.

Now with only a core group on payroll, they can meet takeout demand while saving money, the two said.

Once they feel they can financially support a larger staff, they intend to rehire their relatives and reopen the space known for its homey feel that features couches, art on the walls and house plants.

“We have to make certain we’re in the black,” Leigh Riendeau said. “I don’t know what that looks like, and I don’t know when that’ll be, but the goal is for this to be temporary.”

As early as a few weeks, given continued success, the couple could again re-open for short periods – like for lunch hours.

But that remains speculation.

The only way Gordy’s staff can reopen its two dining rooms and outdoor patio will be through a steady flow of food orders.

“The community is rallying for us and it’s been amazing to see what everybody is doing to support us,” Leigh Riendeau said. “We’re doing what we need to do for the time being. But we are going to be back in full force.

“It’s not only us. This is the (restaurant) scene. So, don’t just support Gordy’s. Support all your favorite local businesses.”