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Adjusting to the new normal

Restaurants relying on takeout and deliveries

Photo by Sam Thiel Dave Deines picks up a takeout order at the Varsity Pub Thursday. The Pub is one of several Marshall restaurants having to temporarily close its dine-in option and switch to takeout or delivery due to the coronavirus pandemic.

MARSHALL — As the world continues to shut its doors over the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the more recent areas to do so has been the hospitality industry. Earlier this week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz ordered the temporary closure of restaurants, bars and other establishments and the effect is going to be seen for the coming weeks, with the closure lasting tentatively until 5 p.m. on March 27.

Once-bustling places such as the Varsity Pub are still adjusting to the new sight of empty establishments, according to manager Suzanne Knott.

“It’s something new that we all have to figure out,” Knott said. “It’s weird to come in at 11:30 a.m. and there’s nobody in.”

“It’s scary,” Bello Cucina manager Sarah Marczak added. “We only have a few to-go orders a day, so it’s not very busy, but we look forward to seeing everyone when they return.”

As business are getting used to their new “normal,” they’ve also had to adjust to having fewer employees/staff members on hand to work.

“It’s not easy for anyone,” Wooden Nickel manager Tim Clausen said. “We have people who are being laid off and people who are working wages as low as an eighth of what they normally make and it’s a big lifestyle change because of that.”

Fast-food chains such as Subway have also had a handful of employees affected, according to manager Randy Wartner.

“There were a few people who have gone on unemployment (plan) that the state has provided,” Wartner said. “But we tried to keep as many as we could.”

Other places have continued to stay busy. Coffee shops, like Mainstay on Main Street, have had to get used to adjusting their day-to-day routines.

“So far it’s been challenging, especially having to reset our muscle memory a little bit,” general manager Erika Allen said. “We’re slowly adjusting, but we don’t have a big staff to begin with and are only open small hours, so we’ve been able to stay open for the most part and it’s worked well.”

While the majority of the establishments haven’t changed much if at all from their menu options, some places are offering specials or promotions for their customers in order to help drum up business during this time.

Clausen, as well as Missy Hasert, manager of The Gym, are urging customers to check for daily specials.

What are the ‘rules’ of takeout/delivery?

By being limited to takeout, curbside pick-up or delivery only, area restaurants are coming up with various ways to help keep themselves as well as their customers safe. Paying with a credit card through the phone or online to avoid interaction with handling cash is the most common option. Clausen said the Wooden Nickel will have a table with a heat lamp for those getting takeout while they will arrange a drop-off point for business and others for deliveries.

Some places are offering free delivery within the city of Marshall, such as The Gym, while others, like Mainstay, are implementing deliveries into their system for the first time.

Another key aspect of ordering or picking up food is the interaction between the worker and customers. In accordance with the social distancing practice, Wartner said at Subway, customers can still go through the drive-thru, but if they come into the store for takeout, only five will be allowed in at a time and there are designated areas of 7 feet of separation between them and the employee as well as the standard six feet apart from each other. He added they are constantly sanitizing nearly half-hour to an hour.

Rime said some of their drivers have been wearing gloves and they also have a contact list delivery system.

“Our employees are doing a good job of keeping a level and smart head about the coronavirus stories. We have some gloves or masks for them to wear,” Rime said. “Customers can also specify if they want a contact list delivery, where we will deliver the pizza, go to a safe distance,  the customer can then sign/pay and set it on top of the bag and we’ll come and get the bag.”

Expressing gratitude

As restaurants and other establishments continue to take things day-by-day, they are extremely grateful to the community for their patience.

“We’re grateful to the community for being patient with us and for supporting small town businesses as we are figuring it out,” Allen said.

“It’s affecting everyone,” Knott added. “We just need to do the best we can and hopefully it only lasts two weeks.”

The Varsity Pub also has a website for customers to reach them at To register or to secure additional information, please go to https://www.restaurantji.com/mn/marshall/varsity-pub-/.

Marczak said there will be a new look when things get back to normal.

“Our restaurant is getting a total wash-down,” Marczak said. “It’ll look brand new when we open again.”

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