When Christopher (“Topher”) and Jana Wurts bought into the Epicurean Garage restaurant, they knew the establishment was struggling financially and harder times were ahead. But they never foresaw a pandemic would strike – or that the pandemic would present an opportunity to turn around the restaurant’s fortunes.
The restaurant, in a strip mall in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, opened in September 2018 and serves higher-end American comfort food, farm-to-table, and gastropub fare. When Topher and Jana bought into the restaurant in March 2019, it was under-capitalized. It soon became apparent they – Topher from a marketing background, Jana from a hospitality background – had to take over running it.
A successful restaurant will have about 80% of its traffic from a four-mile radius, and a patron who visits the restaurant four times has an 89% of returning, Topher says. So, they focused on building recurring business from the 14,732 residents within that four-mile radius.
Then the pandemic hit. Topher saw that as an opportunity, however. The day before the governor closed restaurants to indoor dining, Topher stopped dining room service and shifted to contactless curbside service. Epicurean Garage was the first restaurant in its area to do so. “This was a golden opportunity to keep our head while everybody else is losing theirs, and I decided to lean into it,” Topher says.
The restaurant deployed TouchBistro as its new POS system to help facilitate the transformation. TouchBistro allowed the restaurant to be more flexible – both off-premise and in-venue – and to seamlessly process payments thanks to mobile iPads and multiple stations. Topher says he believes the SaaS POS model will continue to be the preferred solution for restaurants, and he’s considering adding contactless payments as well as demand for the technology grows.
Their transition to takeout and curbside service helped Topher and Jana reverse the restaurant’s business trend. Business grew 37% during the pandemic, and they didn’t lay anybody off. With service now available indoors, about 30% of the restaurant’s business is still curbside and takeout.
Topher also started the Garage Give Back fundraising initiative to help other restaurants financially during the pandemic. The initiative has raised more than $200,000 for local restaurants and charities.
“A huge component of why we grew when others were failing and shrinking was that we have a bigger view than that this is just about selling food and liquor,” he says. “Helping other restaurants is consistent with our theme of honest eats and viewing the business as having a bigger role in our local community.”
Taking a non-traditional approach to restaurant management – and what the establishment means to the community – has helped Topher and Jana build their business when others were struggling. As for the future, Topher thinks third-party delivery services that were so prevalent during the pandemic are here to stay – although some restaurants will save on high commission fees by taking advantage of platforms like TouchBistro Online Ordering to create their own takeout and delivery service.