The restaurant industry has been among the hardest hit due to the coronavirus. But thanks to innovation and his ability to pivot quickly, Joe Town’s Pace’s Pizzeria has seen a growth in sales and the continued employment of all its employees.
Joe graduated from the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management’s hotel and restaurant management degree program in 2010 and immediately found work in the field. Eight years later, in August 2018, he purchased Pace’s Pizzeria in Jamestown, N.Y. Joe knew the business well—he began working for the founder, Dino Pace, in 2004, and spent a decade there, learning the restaurant business, how to communicate with customers, and how to follow related laws and regulations.
His years in the industry also taught him the importance of being able to meet the needs of his community, which is how he is sustaining his business during the current pandemic.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Joe, acting on the information he had learned through the media, the local and national health organizations, and his sister, decided to adjust his business model to focus on how to respond to the expected requirement for social distancing.
Thanks to this adjustment, sales have actually increased, he said, and he was able to find things to keep his employees, many of whom count on the job for supplemental income, on the payroll. He notes that they have even seen an increase in their gratuities because of the support of the community.
The key to this success, Joe said, is that his pivot was not impulsive. He carefully considered what he could safely do for his employees and the community and still keep his restaurant operational before deciding what adjustments he would make to his business plan.
One of the first things he changed was offering a delivery option. Joe noted that, because his dining room business was so strong, he never needed to provide that service before. Now that restaurants in New York state aren’t able to serve in their dining rooms, Joe’s staff provides both curbside and home delivery. He also added a partially baked pizza that could be finished at home, and make-your-own pizza kits, complete with proportioned sauce, cheese, dough ball, and toppings, to the menu. Finally, adjusting his hours of operation allowed for clients to come in earlier than usual.
Helping the less fortunate in his community, emergency responders, and his colleagues in the restaurant industry has also been a priority for Joe. He has donated homemade loaves of bread to the homeless and product to local first responders, and is working with area chambers of commerce and other restaurants and organizations in his community to educate the public and encourage them to support the family-owned eateries in their area. He and his wife, Alyvia, are committed to leading the effort by ordering takeout or delivery from these small business owners as often as possible. He says the concept of “we’re all in this together” should be a priority in these times.
“It’s important that when we face a crisis, goal number one should be how do we work together, use our talents to get through this, how can we help?’” he said.
“We can’t make hand sanitizer, we can’t make face masks, we can’t make PPE,” he continued. “But what we can do is we can feed people. And if we utilize our skills to provide that for our community, provide that for our first responders, then we’re doing our part."
While Joe acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic has been detrimental to the hospitality and tourism industry, he wants to reassure the upcoming class of graduating students that “there’s always opportunity in every situation.”
“Use this time to find ways to innovate and be creative and provide a service in the new business climate so you can alter how you do business and still operate,” he suggested. “Focus on providing a service or product that is really unique.”