restaurant adapt

Hidden away in the heartland, Lincoln is still feeling the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking across the globe. There has been a decrease in students milling around campus and restaurants and bars have closed their dining areas for the time being. This is how eight Lincoln business owners and staff in food service are adapting their business models. 

Mark Shriner, owner and general manager of The Coffee House

For the most part, business at The Coffee House has continued as normal. The cafe is open until 3 p.m. every day, and staff are still carefully sanitizing areas that come in contact with germs. The Coffee House now offers curbside delivery. 

“I’ve done this 32 years; I’ve never seen quite this big a drop in business kind of almost overnight,” he said. “But you know, we’re doing what we can.” 

Dan Sloan, owner and president of The Mill 

All four of The Mill’s locations in Lincoln are adjusting to meet customers’ demands, Sloan said, whether by fulfilling an increased number of online orders or restricting hours at the individual cafes. He said Uber Eats waived delivery fees, so The Mill is taking advantage of that service to deliver coffee. 

Despite the change in how The Mill serves the Lincoln community, Sloan said “morale isn’t terrible,” and the staff is handling everything as well as can be expected.

“I think we’re doing things fairly and transparently, and I think [the staff] really appreciate all the effort that we’ve put in to try to help them maintain their livelihood as well,” he said. 

Kaitlyn Winchell, store manager of The Foundry Community

Like other restaurants in Lincoln, Winchell said The Foundry closed its dining space but is still serving the community through takeout and curbside delivery. She said she’s the only employee still working, as the part-time staff was let go for the time being. 

Winchell said she hopes there will still be business through GrubHub and another app she said The Foundry has been working on for months. 

Sultan Attaie, owner of Sultan’s Kite 

Attaie said the location on 13th and O streets is low on traffic but is still getting business through pickups and deliveries. The location on S 14th and Pine Lake Road streets is down in sales, Attaie said, but he hopes once restaurants are allowed to let customers into the buildings, business will continue as usual. 

“I think once we finish everything and everything comes back to normal, we’ll be stronger,” he said. “I think a lot of restaurants will be better once this thing is over.” 

Eric Thiessen, front of house manager of The Hub Cafe

The Hub Cafe’s business model has changed drastically, Thiessen said. Previously, the restaurant was open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast, brunch and lunch options, but now they are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjusted hours help cater to people’s work schedules, Thiessen said. 

Now, The Hub Cafe only serves through curbside pickup to limit contact between staff and customers, but Thiessen said they are in the process of setting up delivery options as well. 

Thiessen said he’s looking forward to when the restrictions end and business can resume a new sense of normalcy. 

“It’s just one of those things that not having that human contact just isn’t quite the same,” he said. “[But] I think everybody is confident that we will eventually get through this. We know that we’ll stay here as a business no matter what, no matter how long it takes.” 

Nader Sepahpur, owner of AmuManu Ramen Bar, Marz Bar and Yia Yia’s Pizza and Beer

Sepahpur said he has closed three of his four locations because of the city’s 10-person restriction. The Yia Yia’s on S 70th and Van Dorn streets is the only location left open because there’s enough residential life around the restaurant to support it through takeout and delivery, Sepahpur said.

“We [will] stay open for as long as we can and you [have to be] realistic that any day, we may be forced to shut it completely,” he said. 

Brandon Kosek, co-owner of Bison Witches Bar & Deli

Sales for Kosek’s restaurant have dropped, but he said the business is finding new ways to still serve its clientele through takeout and delivery. Even though the store doesn’t normally offer takeout, Kosek said Bison Witches delivers food to Omaha, where some loyal fans of the restaurant now live. 

Kosek said the number of staff members, which was about 15 people, has decreased because the dining area is closed, but he’s confident the restaurant will bounce back to normalcy.

“We’re grateful to have so many loyal fans, so I hope and I assume that when everything is back, that it will be like it was before or even better just because people are going to want to go out more after being cooped up inside for so long,” he said. 

Amanda Fuchser, head pastry chef and co-owner of Rabbit Hole Bakery

Rabbit Hole’s hours have adjusted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but business is still continuing through delivery and curbside drop-offs. Fuchser said she hopes customers utilize DoorDash, because the bakery is already on the app. 

Fuchser said she’s looking forward to having everything return to normal. 

“We’re hoping everyone will want to party after all this is done,” she said, “And celebrate with a cake.”