Tuesday May 12th, 2020. Day 57 (I think) of the COVID-19 Shelter in Place. I’m taking the afternoon to write an update on how our business is doing through all of this. That has been the question of the month around here, and I’ve had the time to stop and reflect a bit about the last ten years really, mostly because there is no catering, no events, no nothing going in in the way of social gatherings for the foreseeable future. I don’t know what to do with too much time on my hands…
In a typical springtime of booking events for the year, I would be struggling to keep up with the quotes and replies coming at me from every inbox. Booking gigs left and right, getting the trailers ready, hiring our Summer staff, getting our shit in order for the usual Chaos. We’d be out at Faction Brewing every second Sunday, we’d be agreeing to end of year School days across the Bay Area. Checking out sites for weddings, bar/bat-mitzvahs, or birthdays, scoping out parking lots for our next corporate lunch party. I think you get the idea. Instead, we are faced with the same unsuspected dilemma that has brought the world to its knees, and everyone is feeling it. COVID-19 and the Shelter in Place.
If you asked me in 2010 what my business would look like in 5 or even 10 years, I would have said, I’m not sure but I bet I’ll still be doing this in some capacity, I’ll figure it out as I go. Still saying that today as I shake my head at all of this. We started out small, one hand made pizza trailer, one guy to make the pizzas, which led to needing someone else to help sell the pizzas, which led to having 2-3 people help cook and sell the pizzas rather quickly, and so on and so on. In those early days, I tapped everyone I knew to come and help “Sell the Pizzas.” That was the only goal, to continually load up, go out to an unknown location, set up and crush it. Weather be damned, the pizzas had to be served.
Our rapid growth in the events circle led to us needing our own home. After less than three years as a catering/events business working out of a shared kitchen in Berkeley (which was awesome BTW), I purchased the former Roma Pizza in the Laurel District, and renamed it the Doughjo and created our new headquarters of operations. After many struggles with now running a take away restaurant and catering, we got our sea legs in the new digs, and powered through 6+ years of successes. We weren’t really growing anymore, but we were consistent season after season. The restaurant had its steady base, and the requests were coming in week after week. We were maintaining a good product and that’s all that mattered. Towards the end of 2019, everything was pointing towards a similar path in 2020.
By mid January of 2020, it was clear to me that some personal family matters would be taking up a lot of my time away from the business. I made some decisions to scale back our storefront operations and give myself a few days a week to travel as needed. I was also looking ahead at the next couple of months and kept the calendar pretty lean, holding out for more summer bookings. Then March 17th happened. The circuit breaker to the world was tripped, and everyone was like, wait, what??? How could there be a shortage of green Beer?
I dare say we were ready for this, insomuch as a business can be ready for a total shut down of most businesses around it. I worry about all of our neighbors and whether or not they’ll be able to reopen. After 6 years in the Laurel District, I felt like we were finally seeing an increase in foot traffic. Several new businesses had opened up and things were on the rise up here. Now, it’s a ghost town, though as it should be to keep everyone safe. I am thankful today that I am still keeping some staff on board to weather this storm. I am waiting for the day when we can begin to hire more people and get back to business. I think everyone is wondering, what will the future bring?
For now, it has brought a wave of restaurants that can make the transition to takeaway, flocking to online third party delivery apps for curbside pickup and fulfillment of to-go orders. It has also allowed these third party apps to take advantages of unsuspecting restaurants. On top of the out-front commission from these apps which can range from 10-30%, there are lots of hidden fees for restaurants too. Trying to stay on top of all the charges and fees can be tough, even for a small operation like ours, which as a pizza place, relies on delivery to make ends meet in this new world. We’ll keep using the service we do, but we always encourage you to come and pick it up from your local restaurant if you can.
Every other day, somebody seems to ask me, “How’s business?” and I as of late have begun to shrug my shoulders and say, “it is what it is right now.” We are loving the support we’ve seen these last 7 weeks at the Doughjo. We are doing everything we can to keep the storefront running smoothly, providing everyone with fresh hot pizzas. We can’t can’t wait for the chance to get back out onto the streets where we earned our chops, slinging pizzas all over the Bay Area. We are looking forward to a brighter 2021, cuz this year catering has been ’86’d from the menu…