On March 15, as Canada was beginning to grapple with the Coronavirus pandemic, Earls Kamloops business partners, Steve Faraday, Cindy Humphrey and Cody Rose, made the tough decision to close the restaurant. They made the call just days before Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, ordered bars and restaurants closed across British Columbia in response to COVID-19.
“We really wondered whether the restaurant would make it,” said Steve Faraday and yet, despite overwhelming uncertainty, the team started planning for the launch of a take-out program which, Faraday acknowledges, was not an immediate success.
“We were terrible at it, in fact,” says Faraday. “It was something we’d never done before and, on many occasions, we wondered whether we should just quit.”
But they persevered: renovating, reorganizing, and building; changing the menus and organizational systems; turning their full-service restaurant into a take-out enterprise. A skeleton crew kept showing up to work crazy hours, knowing they were making a ton of mistakes but continuing to get food out the door. At the same time, patient and loyal customers kept the orders coming, and were willing to share their thoughts on what the restaurant could do to improve.
Armed with this valuable feedback, the Earls team continued to adjust their approach and, just three weeks into their new normal as a take-out operation, things started to change for the better. Sales were growing and staff began returning to work to cope with demand. In early May, Faraday, Humphrey, and Rose made the call to reopen the restaurant. While there were challenges, revenues remained strong and in fact exceeded those for the same period the previous year.
“We couldn’t believe what we were experiencing,” continues Faraday. “What we knew without a doubt, however, was that it was our Earls family and the people of Kamloops who had carried us through the dark of days of March and April. And we knew we had to find a meaningful way to say thank you.”
The team decided a donation to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation was the right way to express gratitude to the community for its support. Earls Kamloops’ $60,000 donation will be directed to health care equipment and programming that supports children and youth facing mental health challenges.