Chicago has already closed restaurant dining rooms amid rising COVID-19 cases. London is about to do it. How will eating places survive a second shutdown?

For Go Ice Cream in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the pandemic has resulted in an overhaul of the four-year store’s business model.

I recently told you how Go plans to sell ice cream during the winter months, when people are less interested in buying ice cream.

At the same time, Go owner Rob Hess has made some significant changes to his approach – and as a result is surprisingly successful.

Its business plan might not apply to restaurants that rely on table service, and it might even be difficult for places that sell ready meals.

But, as Hess explained in an email to clients last week, it worked for him – and there might be clues to other small businesses in what he’s done.

As it has been doing since the spring, Go will continue to sell pints, ice cream pies, cookies and other prepackaged goodies to go.

They can be ordered in advance and picked up at his store window in a downtown alley on Saturdays. Its products are also available in seven local markets.

But it won’t open the seating areas of its store until at least March, even though Michigan’s COVID restrictions allow it to offer partial seats.

Hess decided it wasn’t worth the potential danger.

“While I look forward to the day when I can get you an ice cream sample or a banana split in person, I won’t do it at the expense of Go’s health!” workers, ”Hess wrote to his clients.

He is exploring other ways to sell his products, including indoor pickup or curbside service, making appointments for pickup, delivery or even shipping.

The good news is that Go has such a high volume of prepackaged business that it can now afford to offer health coverage to its four full-time and part-time employees.

“You might be surprised to learn that we weren’t profitable enough to do this before,” he wrote.

“The truth is, when COVID hit, Go Ice Cream was just starting to hit daily financial breakeven point, and we were struggling to pay off around $ 40,000 in debt. I won’t mince my words: we were in trouble.

At first, Hess decided to handle the workload himself, then brought in three more employees.

“The combination of selling pints only, which drastically increased the average price of our tickets, along with drastically reduced personnel costs, meant that we were actually profitable for the very first time,” Hess says.

“I invested every dollar in debt repayment, and with a combination of grants and many 80-hour work weeks, I was able to reduce our debt to almost zero.

And, he learned a valuable lesson in how he wanted to run his business.

“Working alone in the kitchen, going back to what I loved to do (ie making delicious ice cream filled with flavors) also gave me time to think and reflect,” he said. writing. “The world had changed, my consciousness had changed and I realized that I would never go back to running the store in a way I had never envisioned.”

Before COVID, Go fulfilled his dream of a community space, with fundraisers and events as often as possible.

But that, in addition to running the store, stressed everyone involved.

“Now, thanks to our new business model, all that has changed. It’s a weird silver liner, but COVID has, in a way, made us a better, stronger, healthier business for everyone, ”he wrote.

“Our pints-only, take-out model imposed on us in the event of a pandemic has made us better than ever. Who could have guessed?


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