After Charlotte restaurants ramp up takeout/delivery, some decide to close amid COVID

We never thought the most common word we’d connect with successful restaurants wouldn’t be “delicious”

We never thought the most common word we’d connect with successful restaurants wouldn’t be “delicious” — it would be “pivot.”

But pivoting has been one of the keys to surviving in the food world while a statewide stay-at-home order is in place. Figuring out how to sell food when your dining room is closed has been like a musician trying to play in an empty arena.

So far, the great takeout experiment has had winners and losers among Charlotte area restaurants.

Chris Coleman, for instance, had just opened Goodyear House on Feb. 4, six weeks before North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered that all in-house dining had to close to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.. Coleman tried to offer takeout for a week, but quickly had to pull the plug and shut down.

“We looked at the finances of it and the money didn’t make sense,” he said. Goodyear House was getting around 30 orders a day, but that wasn’t enough to cover the cost of salaries, ingredients and all the other expenses. And one of the biggest bites out of a restaurant’s sales is the delivery services, which charge both the customer and the restaurant.

“We were fighting an uphill battle,” he said. “You do have places like pizza places and Chinese places who already have a takeout following.” But for restaurants where the setting is a big part of the experience, it’s hard, he added.

Chris Coleman is the executive chef of The Goodyear House in NoDa, which is temporarily closed.
Chris Coleman is the executive chef of The Goodyear House in NoDa, which is temporarily closed.

“Delivery means losing 10 to 15 percent right off the top,” he said. “It just didn’t add up.”

Carpe Diem/Earl’s Grocery

In Elizabeth, Bonnie Warford, who owns both Carpe Diem and Earl’s Grocery with her sister, Tricia Maddrey, tried to stay open by using Earl’s as a catering kitchen for takeout orders.

“And we did an OK amount,” she said. But because they’re located so close to several large medical facilities, most of their business was coming from there.

“It was hard for the staff, frankly. So we decided it wasn’t worth it.”

She tried to contact Novant about offering meals they could deliver to hospital workers. But she didn’t get a response.

“I think because my sister and I are both over 50, we’re aware of the risks.” Down the road, they may try it again, she said.

“It’s not out of the question, it’s just out of the question for the next month.”