With restaurants closing their doors to the public and relying on curbside pickup or delivered orders, Gloucester restaurant owner Gary Ward is among those thankful for the local community’s help in keeping his staff employed.
“Restaurants in general are pretty much in dire straits,” said Ward, who, along with his wife Karen, owns Olivia’s in the Village and Scoot’s BBQ, both well known local dining spots.
When times changed so did Ward’s businesses. “It’s usually crazy busy, and it’s still crazy in the kitchen, and then I walk in the dining room and no one’s there.”
Wanting to help out his staff, especially the wait staff that is left to look at empty tables, Ward decided to offer a variety of what he calls “family packs.” They include enough food to feed four to five people at a deeply discounted price.
For example, Ward said, a family pack that would cost $40 to $55 if the four meals were purchased individually is offered at a discounted rate of $25 to $30.
“They have been well received and people are doing what we had hoped,” Ward said of customers ordering, paying the discounted price and frequently leaving the servers the difference between the discounted price and the full price—or more.
“It’s been incredible,” he said. “We’ve seen tips of $20 to $100. At Scoot’s, someone left an unbelievable amount. The girls have been getting support from the community to allow them to continue to work,” he said.
“It’s generating enough revenue to keep the cooks employed, tip the servers and helping us to keep our doors open. It’s a win, win-win. Sometimes you get lucky and it works. I know what kind of community we live in and that’s why I went with that.”
Ward said the idea has been picked up by some other local restaurants and by some restaurant owners that he associates with in a professional group.
“It’s important for me to invest in the people that work for me. And they appreciate that, they do, all have expressed appreciation and we can’t do it without them,” said Ward. “And hopefully we’ll soon get past this and they will still be here when our dining rooms are full again.”