By Marjorie Rice
The once-vibrant North Central Phoenix restaurant community is ailing as the Coronavirus pandemic causes closures, limited hours and potential orders for residents to stay in their homes.
Keeping up with the changes has been a monumental challenge for owners and also for customers whose lifestyles are centered around dinners out, or who want to support their favorite dining and drinking spots.
At press time the situation remained fluid, as many restaurateurs struggled to keep their doors open with delivery and pick-up service replacing in-house dining, others offering discounts and other deals, and still others deciding to close temporarily. Traditional seasonal events including Easter brunches have been canceled until further notice. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego last month declared a state of emergency for the city that forced immediate closure of bars and required restaurants to switch to delivery/take-out-drive-thru only.
With such a dynamic situation, the best way for patrons to find out what their favorite restaurant is doing is to check their Facebook pages or websites.
For many restaurateurs, concern for their employees – many with decades of service with their companies – equal their worries for the bottom line.
To help them, two of Arizona’s largest restaurant groups – Upward Projects and Fox Restaurant Concepts – are teaming up to raise $500,000 in donations to support hospitality workers during the ban on in-house dining. The #TakeOutForTeams program will funnel donations from customers picking up carry-out meals at the groups’ 40 restaurants statewide. Fox Restaurant Concepts and Upward Projects also are inviting other restaurants to join the program. Customers can add a donation to their bill that will go to the program.
Upward Projects’ CEO and Co-Funder Lauren Bailey said customers have been asking for a way to donate directly to restaurant teams.
“My first call was to our team to develop the program, and then to Sam Fox, who jumped at the idea,” Bailey said. “In times like these it’s more important than ever that we band together.”
Bailey and Fox are inviting other restaurants to join the effort.
Michele Woods, owner of Aunt Chilada’s Phoenix location at 7330 N. Dreamy Draw Drive, understands the challenges restaurant employees are facing.
“Some of our employees have been with us for 30 years. We’re just beside ourselves,” Woods said. “There are so many restaurant people who are suffering right now.”
To support her employees and their families, Woods will offer a limited take-out menu on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. As of press time, the restaurant will offer pizzas and burritos, plus a limited amount of alcohol, to go, with all of the proceeds going toward the staff. To order, visit the website at https://www.auntchiladas.com or call 602-944-1286.
“We will take this time and organize, clean and focus on staying healthy so when we can fully open again, it will be better than ever,” she said.
When restaurants close they face another challenge: large stocks of food, much of it fresh and not suitable for freezer storage.
“We do have a lot of food and produce in our walk-in right now,” Woods said. “We will prepare it for the community and our staff before it goes bad. We can at least help in that way.”
While some locations are closing, others are hoping delivery and curbside pick-up service will get them through this challenging period.
Sheldon Knapp, owner of Phoenix City Grille at 5816 N. 16th St., is one.
Knapp has seen hard times before.
“Life-altering things happen,” he said. “This is the second time in 10 years; the first was the recession. It taught me a lesson, and we’re in better shape to go through this right now because of it. I feel fortunate that we’re set to operate with less sales for a brief time. Who I really feel bad for are restaurants that have just started up or are more leveraged (with high debt levels). I don’t know how they’ll survive, and that’s a real tragedy because restaurants are a community’s heart and soul. A tavern like ours is a meeting place for the neighborhood, a place to come in and vent – really the center of the community.”
At press time, the grille was serving take-out and working out details for delivery service.
“We’ve always done takeout, but we’re gearing up to do more,” Knapp said.
Like other North Central restaurants, he’s also working on plans to keep as many staff members working as possible.
Some restaurants are offering discounts in addition to expanded pickup and delivery service. Here’s a sampling:
Patrons of The Parlor, at 1916 E. Camelback Road, can order any bottle of wine with their pizza and pasta orders for $18, a discount of up to 50 percent. Discounts also are available for sangria and cocktails.
Rosie McCaffrey’s Irish Pub, 960 E. Camelback Road, is experimenting with takeout service, though manager Kathleen McCaffrey-Flick says that may change. “We’re trying to figure out if this makes sense financially,” she said. “We hope to have the community’s support so we can continue orders until we can reopen for normal business hours.” The pub is offering discounts on drinks; check their Facebook and Instagram sites for details.
Ladera Taverna y Cocina, 8729 N. Central Ave., and all locations of The Vig are offering pickup orders and free delivery through Postmates and UberEats.
George Yang’s Chinese Cuisine at 6048 N. 16th St. is offering take-out on its menu items daily from 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.
Fox Restaurant Concepts is offering 35 percent off to callers for pickup orders at all its restaurants, excluding airport locations. North Central locations include Flower Child, Zinburger, Culinary Dropout and Blanco Tacos + Tequila. For more information, visit www.foxrc.com.
Salvadoreño Restaurant at 8911 N. Central, Ste. 101, is offering take-out of its Central American food menu items. Call 602-870-2955 for hours.
Postino, 5144 N. Central Ave., is offering curbside pickup discounts while helping the hungry. For every board of bruschetta prepared for customers to go, Postino will donate a meal to No Kid Hungry. Specials include a Date Night-in, $25, including bruschetta, a snack item and salad. The Kickback Pack, $45, includes bruschetta, three snacks and a cheese board. There also are discounts on wine, with a two-pack for $30 and a four-pack for $55. On Mondays and Tuesdays, a bruschetta board and bottle of wine are $25.
Joy Ride, across the street, at 5202 N. Central Ave., is offering $2 tacos on Tuesdays.
Fired Pie is offering a date night deal at all 21 locations for its four-piece rotoli and two pizzas or salads for $20. The offer is available for online pickup orders through firedpie.com. Use the promo code: DATE at checkout. Fired Pie also is offering two pepperoni or cheese pizzas for $10 using the promo code PEPP.
Pomo Pizzeria at 701 N. 1st St., is offering 30 percent off and free delivery for orders over $30; a new service with take-and-bake pizza; and a gift card deal where customers purchase $100 in gift cards and get $50 back to use for dine-in service when that resumes. For details, visit pomodowntown.mobilebytes.com.