Hanover restaurants resume normal activities

Many restaurants in Hanover that changed their business model during the pandemic are now seeing an increase in their customer base.

by Ben Fagell | 27 minutes ago

Expanded outdoor restaurants may remain in the landscape of downtown Hanover after the pandemic.

This article is featured in the Spring 2021 special issue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge changes in Hanover’s business landscape, forcing restaurants and retailers to deal with closures, mask warrants and capacity restrictions. However, companies that have managed to stay afloat over the past year may start to see a return to normal amid the low number of COVID-19 cases and changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Julia Griffin, director of the city of Hanover.

“The good news is that downtown Hanover is doing pretty well,” Griffin said. “… People come back to their desks full time. Having more bodies downtown frequenting our restaurants, shopping at lunchtime, and parking is a good sign that normalcy is back. “

Griffin said the city is measuring foot traffic in downtown Hanover based on parking revenue, which in the past two weeks alone has fallen to 50% of the normal amount.

Upper Valley Business Alliance executive director Tracy Hutchins said the entire Upper Valley has handled the pandemic well and will continue to rebound through the summer. She added that companies that were able to move to a digital model had an advantage over those that continued to depend on foot traffic.

According to Griffin, companies that have had the “insight” to react quickly to changes in state guidelines and customer flows are emerging from the pandemic, noting “the incredible amount of revisions, reorganizations and redesigns” that they suffered to survive the pandemic.

Griffin added that although the city has seen a few restaurants permanently close over the past year, those closures were not directly attributable to the pandemic.

“These were restaurants that were already underperforming… and the pandemic was just the final nail in the coffin,” Griffin said.

Lou’s restaurant owner and CEO Jarett Berke Tu’17 said the shift to a delivery-based model has helped his business move forward. While delivery was not profitable for Lou – mainly due to the high cost of drivers and low-margin products – Berke said it helped him keep his staff busy and employed.

“We have never fired anyone [the pandemic]Said Berke. “Now we’re in a really strong position. Many other restaurants are struggling to rehire their employees, struggling to return to where they were. We still have a lot of the same crew here, and we’re in good shape as we get through the last corner.

As the pandemic eases, Berke said he is focused on increasing profits by prioritizing efficient service, high-quality food and restaurant customers.

Additionally, Lous, Murphy’s on the Green and Boloco have come together to form a delivery service called Upper Valley Eateries and Restaurants – UVER, for short – which will eliminate the need for third-party apps like Grubhub and DoorDash, according to the owner of Murphy. . Nigel Leeming. The group hopes to launch UVER before the start of the fall term.

According to Boloco co-founder John Pepper ’91 Tu ’97, UVER will employ an independent pool of drivers shared between the three restaurants, thereby minimizing the variability in delivery traffic that different restaurants experience throughout the day.

“I hope that we are managing the demand in several restaurants, better than we are able to do it alone, [eliminating instances when] some drivers are completely mad, can’t follow orders, while someone across the way is completely dead, ”Pepper said.

Pepper stressed the importance of collective action to overcome common challenges.

“[UVER has] was a beacon of hope for the pandemic, just realizing that we could be better served by doing this together, ”said Pepper. “… It doesn’t make sense to all of us – delivering individually and competitively instead of joining forces as a community.”

Berke said he hopes UVER will keep “big ugly businesses” out of Hanover and “money in the community,” noting the overwhelming effect the pandemic has had on small businesses.

“Unfortunately, I think [the pandemic] has made big companies much stronger, ”Berke said. “Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Grubhub have really benefited from the pandemic, unlike many small businesses.”

According to the city’s COVID-19 guidelines, Lou’s currently has 30% of its total indoor capacity open to seats, which Berke described as “fairly limited.” However, he noted that the restaurant reopened its alfresco dining a few weeks ago and can currently accommodate its typical number of tables.

During the pandemic, the city also replaced parking spaces on Main Street with outdoor seating for restaurants to account for the loss of indoor seating. Griffin said the outdoor dining spaces will remain and be incorporated into an ongoing sidewalk reconstruction project, but noted the controversy over parking elimination.

“Parking is generally in high demand, and sacrificing parking would be controversial,” Griffin said. “So we’ll find out. We want to take the time to make sure we’ve heard from all kinds of groups of people before we pull the pin on something. But the ambiance of al fresco dining is great. “

Amber Boland, owner of Blue Sparrow Kitchen in Norwich and The Nest, which is currently under construction in Hanover, said it considers the well-being of its employees while deciding where to adopt more relaxed COVID-19 guidelines.

Although she closed the seats inside, she said her employees were increasingly comfortable with the idea of ​​opening up the interiors of her restaurants as they went. fully vaccinated.

Eden Schneck ’24 said she felt safer now that she was fully vaccinated and enjoyed downtown Hanover more often.

“I feel like I have a layer of protection,” Schneck said. “I really feel like I got to interact more with friends and feel more comfortable. I also found myself frequenting more restaurants in the city.

Leeming said he has noticed more customers at his restaurant and believes there is a pent-up demand for normalcy as vaccination rates rise in Hanover.

“The more vaccines there are, the more people are ready to go out and not be so scared,” Leeming said. “We are seeing a lot more older people coming now than before.”

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