Restaurant and retail business owners in Pfugerville and Round Rock say they have yet to witness an uptick in customers since being allowed to let more in.
“We are still getting the same decent traffic during our lunch and dinner shifts, and of course it’s not nearly as what it used to be, but it is still a steady flow of people,” said Rico Trejo, assistant manager at the Cotton Patch restaurant in Round Rock.
Trejo said about 70% of business sales come from their to-go orders, especially at night with curbside orders and from food delivery apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Favor.
“When the pandemic hit, we noticed that we needed those third- party delivery services and those sales helped out so much to keep our business afloat,” Trejo said. “Those now bring us a lot of business at night since usually that is around the time when people are coming home.”
Businesses across Texas including restaurants, stores, offices and gyms reopened at 75% capacity on Sept. 21 as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s expanded reopening plan.
Even without a swarm of returning customers, at least one Pflugerville restaurant found an upside in the latest ruling.
“I believe customers will feel more comfortable knowing the capacity rate has increased,” said Jermaine Dumes, co-owner of Down South CaJJun Eats in Pflugerville. “Being that we are an outdoor venue, we have a very large capacity so it really won’t change things for us.”
Amy Kerley, founder and owner of Haute Boutique in Round Rock, said she remains hopeful that people will continue to support small businesses.
“Every capacity rate increase is helpful to small businesses as they attempt to recover from unprecedented times,” Kerley said. “Even if customers aren’t comfortable coming in person or may not have the financial means to shop right now, they are talking about us on social media, watching our live sales, and referring friends and family to us.”
Abbott said the latest reopening measures were possible due to Texans showing their will to adhere to pandemic safety guidelines such as social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.
Bars were not part of the state’s capacity expansion, as they have been shuttered completely since June 29. However those that modified their operations by serving more food than alcohol can expand to the 75% capacity.
Jaime Villarreal of the Long Branch Saloon in Round Rock said he has seen excitement in customers coming back to the bar, but has to remind them of the guidelines that must be followed.
“It has been a transition and it would be a lot better if bars could just open back up,” Villarreal said. “It’s been a struggle dealing with crowds, especially for those who don’t quite understand what it is we have to do as a business to comply with the rules.”
The saloon launched its food trailer, Long Branch Cocina, on Sept. 4, serving customers food options such as tacos, burgers, wings and appetizers.
“It’s bringing on an extra business,” Villarreal said. “We’ve seen success in the kitchen for the last two full weeks plus one weekend, but the biggest task has been going from only a bar to a restaurant to now both. It’s been a juggle to balance the two.”
At Haute Boutique, Kerley said cleanliness and the safety of her employees and customers are the top priority, with regularly scheduled cleanings and specific opening and closing checklists.
“I reaffirm and encourage my staff on a regular basis that as devastating and unexpected as COVID-19 was, what we do from here will forever impact our lives and set the example for others to follow,” Kerley said.
Kerley said COVID-19 has taught her to be flexible and to innovate, including using social media to host live sales and offering free delivery to customers within a 20-mile radius of its store at 25 Dawson Road in Round Rock.
“We may never go back to how things once were, but we want to set the example for other retail businesses like us who may need positive affirmation that you can still be successful even among a global pandemic,” Kerley said.
Fred Sassani, founder of Bodies By Design Personal Training in Pfugerville, said the capacity rate does not affect his gym since his operates by appointment only. He said the pandemic has allowed his gym to rethink options for what it can do best for clients, including a mobile app where workouts are designed by trainers and can be sent to clients who still want to stay home.
“The level of loyalty and depth of relationships that we have with our clients and the trust they have in us allowed us to pivot into virtual and not lose them,” Sassani said.