Hearth and Hill taking care of employee needs with curbside pickup
When the Summit County Health Department announced a ban on dine-in services at all local restaurants and mandated curbside pickup and delivery to curb the spread of COVID-19, Hearth and Hill co-owner Brooks Kirchheimer was surprised by how quickly he had to adjust to the new paradigm.
“All the restaurants had gotten a heads-up from the Park City Restaurant Association on Saturday that there would be a press release sent Sunday evening that we would have 48 hours to comply with closing of dining room services,” Kirchheimer said. “Then Sunday afternoon we started hearing that there wouldn’t be 48 hours, and we would have to close our doors at 5 (p.m.) that night. And that was a little frustrating because there were staff who were looking to get a couple of last shifts, before the unknown.”
But as all local restaurant owners have done, Kirchheimer and his staff made adjustments, and are now hitting their stride with the curbside pick-up concept.
“It’s something new for us, but we’ve been able to adjust things accordingly,” he said. “We’ve been extremely grateful to the Park City community for supporting us in our new curbside pickup endeavors.”
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Some of the adjustments meant cutting costs by only using necessary equipment to safely prepare the food, Kirchheimer said.
“We have turned off our lights during the day and have turned the heat down, while a majority of our kitchen line has been turned off so we can save money on gas and electricity,” he said. “We’re only using limited utilities to reduce our impact on these bills, and that has set up a new kitchen flow in the back.”
To keep operations as safe as possible, the kitchen staff sanitizes the equipment hourly, according to Kirchheimer.
“We also wear gloves when we handle food and give food to our guests to make sure we maintain the highest standards of safety and healthiness at all times,” he said.
The offerings include a limited menu of the restaurant’s regular items as well as three new family-style dinners for four — a fajitas dinner, full chicken dinner and a brisket dinner.
“We ask for a 30 minute lead time if they phone in their orders,” Kirchheimer said.
Hearth and Hill is only accepting credit cards, as required by the Summit County Health Department.
“The Health Department feels the exchange of cash is an easy way for COVID-19 to transfer,” he said. “After placing the order, patrons give their names and the descriptions of their cars so associates can plop the food into their cars.”
Kirchheimer noticed many of the patrons ordered the meals so they could take them home and heat them up the next day.
In addition to ordering meals, Hearth and Hill patrons can purchase gift cards, according to Kirchheimer.
Guests can purchase these cards online or by phone, and they can pick the cards up curbside, have them delivered or emailed to them.
“I certainly encourage people to purchase gift cards from all the businesses and restaurants that have had to close during this time,” Kirchheimer said. “We fully expect this to last one to two months. We’re in this for the long term and we’re coming up with a game plan.”
Part of that game plan was to keep as many servers on as he could.
“We employ nearly 70 people over the winter, and while we have our management team working, we have been able to give a few of our hourly associates work,” he said. “Busy nights like we had earlier this week, allowed us to bring in more associates to help pick up shifts.”
Like other area restaurant owners, Kirchheimer’s No. 1 priority is taking care of his employees, he said.
“The biggest goal at this point to stay open and do curb-side pick-up is, I believe, the same as the majority of other restaurants,” he said. “We just want to give as many hours as we possibly can to our associates. We’re not in this to make money. We have rent and utilities, but we want to give as many hours to our staff to allow them to make tips and have some paychecks coming their way.”
Kirchheimer has also assured his full-time employees who have insurance through the restaurant that they will continue to do so.
“We told them if they aren’t able to pay for it that we will pay for it ourselves,” he said. “I think, like us, there are many of the restaurants in the state that are trying to take care of the thousands of their workers, who don’t plan for situations like this and are now in a tough spot financially.”
The curbside pickup model doesn’t just impact Kirchheimer’s staff, he said.
“We used to feature live music twice a week, and now the musicians don’t have gigs,” he said. “We also have a compost and recycling company that we’ve had to stop using right now. And we will drastically cut down the amount of linen we get from the linen company we work with. These are just examples of the services that will be impacted by restaurants that won’t be open.”
In addition, the beer and wine companies that provide Hearth and Hill with libations will also be put on hold, because Utah law currently forbids serving beer and wine with takeout, Kirchheimer said.
“We and other restaurants in the community have reached out to our DABC reps to ask and beg for us to serve wine and beer with our curbside orders,” he said. “I know New York, New Jersey and Connecticut recently allowed their restaurants to do that, but we live in this interesting state of Utah. We are still hoping they will help us out, especially after the liquor store will close.”
Still, Kirchheimer understands the situation.
“We just want to make sure all necessary steps that provide safety to all make this a quick and effective solution so we can all get back to our regular daily lives, which I believe we are all looking forward to doing,” he said.
Ginger Wicks, executive director Park City Area Restaurant Association, hopes the community will step up and help restaurants such as Hearth and Hill provide fine foods for the community and some sort of financial security for their staff.
“In the wake of our current times, supporting our local restaurants is more important than ever,” Wicks said in a statement. “Our local restaurant community depends on you, as much as you depend on them. We are grateful for the steps they are taking to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
These steps, Wicks said come at a cost and in an effort to mitigate this as much as possible she encourages the public to visit the association’s website, parkcityrestaurants.com for a list of all restaurants currently offering safe curbside service.
“If you are a restaurant that has taken the proper steps to provide curbside service and are not listed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly add you regardless if you are a member of the PCARA,” she said.
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