A curbside pick-up sign sits in front of Andy’s Fish House in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A curbside pick-up sign sits in front of Andy’s Fish House in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish County restaurants struggle to adapt to shutdown

They must cope with shortages of take-out containers, steep online ordering fees and lost revenue from alcohol.

Snohomish County restaurant owners have faced one challenge after another during the coronavirus shutdown.

For Brian and Connie Adams, owners of The Amarillo Restaurant and Tavern in Monroe, the latest problem is a shortage of to-go boxes.

“They’re hard to find right now,” Brian Adams said. “The suppliers are running out as fast we can buy them.”

Carry-out containers are needed now more than ever at The Amarillo. Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee restricted bars and restaurants to takeout, drive-thru and delivery services to slow the spread of COVID-19. Sit-down dining is prohibited through at least April 6, following Inslee’s stay-at-home order Monday.

Restaurants have tried to cope with the shutdown by reducing hours and menus, offering curbside pickup and free delivery, and giving discounts for group orders.

A burgeoning deliver-by-app market — projected to surpass $200 billion by 2025 before the outbreak hit, according to Forbes — makes it easy to order from restaurants using online platforms such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub.

But the Adamses can’t afford to tap into the market because the delivery fees are steep.

“Some of them take 25 or 30% of the revenue,” Brian Adams said. “Our margin is gone. It’s not worth it to sell anything at that point.”

Edgar Steig and David Smithburg talk as Smithburg gathers a to-go order at The Amarillo in Monroe. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Edgar Steig and David Smithburg talk as Smithburg gathers a to-go order at The Amarillo in Monroe. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

The Adamses, of Lake Stevens, were prepared for the governor’s ban to extend beyond March 31. They’ve furloughed most of their staff and now offer online ordering and delivery.

But they worry their business won’t survive.

“A good portion of our income comes from the bar,” Brian Adams said. “It’s at least 30 to 40%, depending on the night. That’s an extreme loss of revenue.”

The Amarillo delivers for free within a few miles; it’s an additional dollar for every extra mile. The menu, made for dine-in, has been reduced to what still tastes good after transportation.

“We took steaks off because if it sits too long, people aren’t going to be happy,” Brian Adams said. “We don’t get a lot of to-go steaks either, and I didn’t want to buy more supply and end up wasting it.”

Owner Chad Manivanh works with Martha Escobar at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Everett on March 20. “People are ordering online and picking up and leaving very generous tips,” Manivanh says. “People are amazing!” (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Owner Chad Manivanh works with Martha Escobar at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Everett on March 20. “People are ordering online and picking up and leaving very generous tips,” Manivanh says. “People are amazing!” (Kevin Clark / The Herald) Purchase Photo

Adapting to the restrictions was easy enough for Chad Manivanh, owner of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Everett. His drive-thru, along with partnerships with Uber Eats and DoorDash, made the transition relatively seamless. He also offers curbside pickup and contact-less delivery.

But the quickly changing nature of the crisis hasn’t given him enough time to consider whether third-party delivery is worth the cost. Manivanh, of Lynnwood, said the online ordering platforms’ fees are eating up his profits.

“At the end of the week, we’ll analyze the data to see if it’s worth continuing or if it would be better to shut our doors,” Manivanh said. “Just by having third-party delivery, it’s not enough to cover our costs.”

Manivanh said Dickey’s has lost customers who work at Boeing, 5 miles to the north. In an attempt to compensate, Dickey’s has cut some menu prices — the pulled pork sandwich, formerly $6.95, is now $3. Also, kids eat free on Sunday.

He said the only thing keeping them in business is the community’s support.

“That has been a blessing for us,” he said. “They want to see us stay open.”

Andy’s Fish House employee Kate Gordon hands customer Andy Coleman his to-go order on March 19 in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Andy’s Fish House employee Kate Gordon hands customer Andy Coleman his to-go order on March 19 in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) Purchase Photo

Andy’s Fish House in Snohomish is sticking with takeout. Sales are “surprisingly” good, said manager Kate Gordon, of Snohomish. She said they’ve received help from the American Legion post next door, which lets Andy’s customers use its 15-car parking lot for pick-up.

“It (the coronavirus) hasn’t affected us too bad,” she said. “We’ve stayed average, if not better.”

The looming state-ordered, stay-at-home quarantine may have boosted sales, she said.

“People are afraid it’s going to happen and want to get out as much as possible,” Gordon said. “They’re saying, ‘We want to get your food.’”

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

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