Local restaurants alter menus to remedy business decline

Dan Doren, Senior Reporter

DeKALB — Local restaurants are altering their menus and promoting takeout services as they attempt to keep business up while dine-in services are suspended.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all restaurants in Illinois to cease dine-in operations Sunday to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Delivery and pickup will still be available, he said.

The mandate went into effect 9 p.m. Monday and will last through March 30.

Some local businesses have made temporary adjustments to their menus to accommodate the mandate. Common Grounds, 131 E. Lincoln Highway, said it will not be serving food items, such as paninis, omelets and wraps, for the rest of the month.

“All of our drinks will be available,” Jeff Foster, owner of Common Grounds, said. “[But] if someone comes in and asks for food, … we don’t have stuff to really carry out.”

Common Grounds sees its business mostly from dine-in consumers, Foster said, and the restaurant’s lack of patronage Monday came as a concern for him.

“Today, we only saw a third of our [usual] business or less,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

The statewide closure of dine-in services also puts Common Grounds in an unfavorable employment situation, as table waiting and food prep positions will be unnecessary until the mandate expires.

“We are very small, and we have a small staff,” Foster said. “I can do mostly everything alone if we’re only doing drink orders. The other people I have scheduled are there to cook and take orders.”

Foster said customers have the option of texting their orders in advance, and that gift cards and coffee beans are available for purchase.

Common Grounds is also using social media and other sites such as Yelp, Facebook and Instagram to keep patrons updated.

Common Grounds’ adjusted hours are 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. through March 30, according to its Facebook page.

Fatty’s Pub & Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway, will be serving food items exclusively via pickup, delivery or curbside pickup, general manager Brian White said.

Fatty’s has similarly seen fewer customers since the mandate has been in effect, White said.

“Once it started, you see it,” he said. “There’s no one here on a St. Patrick’s Day; that’s kind of odd.”

White said ordering ahead at Fatty’s is available through the EatStreet app, although calling the restaurant is preferred.

Fatty’s will be open until 8 p.m. through March 30, as opposed to 2 a.m., White said.