Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) recently lifted its mask mandate and is allowing all businesses to open to 100% capacity despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden was not a fan of Abbott’s announcement, going as far as calling the decision “Neanderthal thinking.” Despite the commander-in-chief’s harsh criticism, the news was met with much fanfare from restaurant owners in the Lone Star State, including Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. CEO Laura Rea Dickey joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down what the lifting of mandates means for Texas businesses.
“We’re ecstatic to invite guests back into our dining rooms. It’s worked for us in Florida. We have over 526 locations in 44 States. And so we are very excited to add this additional capacity to our 160 Texas locations,” she said.
Dickey tells Yahoo Finance that the restaurant’s staff will still have PPE equipment available while they work.
“We are Dallas-based and for us, our pit crew members will stay in masks, will still have personal protective equipment for our folks that are serving our guests. But we’re going to open to capacity and we’re going to follow what the local regulations are. And so we will open to a 100%, and guests can come in and dine with us as they’re comfortable.”
Owning and operating a restaurant during a pandemic is no easy task. Dickey shared with Yahoo Finance some of the strategies that have served the restaurant chain well in the age of COVID.
“It’s a communication absolutely. It’s about transparency, both with our guests and with our folks inside the restaurant. We started last March a year ago, literally not knowing anything more than anybody else did, but the one thing we knew was, you know, this brand is not going down on my watch. And so we’ve been around for 80 years and we’ll find a way. And that really meant first and foremost, talking to all of our folks and going, here’s how we have to adjust. Here’s how well we adjust our menu, how we’ll react to supply lines, shortages, how we will just make sure that we are there for our guests. It might look a little different. And then we brought the business back.”
Dickey’s locations in Florida have been open to capacity since the fall. Dickey tells Yahoo Finance that the experience there serves as a guide for going forward in other areas.
“The 19 locations we have in the state of Florida, they’ve been open at capacity since the fall. So we have experienced and have a transition plan to get our pit crews ready to see more folks in our dining rooms, but it isn’t actually a huge degree of change for us. It’s a difference in degree instead of a difference in kind."
Another strategy that Dickey’s employed was ditching their traditional buffet service setting and implemented a “Let-us-get-that-for-you policy,” to keep with best health practices.
“What I do know is that some things are here, and they’re here to stay from a change standpoint. I don’t think we’ll go back to full buffets. ... You can still have a good restaurant experience. You can still have hospitality. You can still have that community touch point. That’s ... gathering around a table and celebrating great moments, but we’ll do that a little differently. I think those habits have forever adjusted, but I do think you’ll see dining rooms back to full capacity.”
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.