Since 1982, the 4th Street Shrimp Store has been a St. Petersburg landmark. Brian Connell started working there as the general manager and, in 2007, he bought the iconic restaurant from the previous owner. “I have seen us through the ups and downs of the economy and also the BP oil spill,” he says.
COVID-19 has forced all kinds of businesses to be creative in how they serve their customers and stay connected to the community while maintaining safety. SBF’s restaurant clients have been hit particularly hard by the closures and slowdowns, and we are seeing them completely change how they do business in order to keep serving customers.
The biggest challenge for the 4th Street Shrimp Store right now, Connell says, is trying to adapt while not knowing what the future holds.
“This is such an unprecedented event that there is no one right way to do things,” Connell says. “There is really no roadmap as to how to understand what business will be like and what our customers are expecting. We are reacting and changing on a daily basis to what feedback we get.”
The Shrimp Store, a Spoor Bunch Franz client, has worked hard to adapt to the current reality and to roll with each change in guidelines and regulations. Here are four things of note that they’ve done to stay afloat:
1. Identify customer demand and meet it. The Shrimp Store closed March 20, but then reopened on April 1 for takeout only. What was once 15% of their business instantly became 100%. This wasn’t as simple as placing a sign on the door.
“Within the first five days of reopening, we literally modified our front dining room to become a takeout counter,” Connell says. “We moved network cables, reconfigured computer terminals, and built a counter area for order-taking and pick-up. We also updated our website and POS software for online ordering and signed up with Uber Eats for delivery.”
2. Adapt to change. Now that the dining room has reopened, they’ve had to reinvent their service model yet again. “The guests order and pay at the counter upon entering, then pick up their beverages from the bar, then find a table,” Connell says. “We have servers bring the entrees out with clean utensils and condiments, and then we continue to service the customer and bus the tables after.”
This new model allows the restaurant to separate each task as a way to avoid cross-contamination. “The order and payment person does not touch food or beverage, the beverage and food production staff does not handle dirty dishes or glasses, and the food runners and bussers do not handle any food or beverage production,” Connell says. “We do this all while wearing masks, and changing gloves, and handwashing frequently.”
3. Stay connected to customers through social media. “We make daily updates to make sure our customers know what and how we are able to serve them,” Connell says. “In uncertain times, I feel it’s very important that they know we are still relevant and strong enough to weather the rough times and come out stronger.”
4. Communicate thoroughly with management and staff. “Communication among our management and staff is crucial to keep everyone on the same page, especially as things change daily,” Connell says.
Ensuring that staff members are safe and taken care of is essential, and Connell says they have made taking care of their staff a priority. “We have a very seasoned and long-term staff that has made the Shrimp Store their career, which has helped make the restaurant the success it is today.”