Ken Turner opened Turner’s Kitchen five years ago. He creates massive sandwiches that are more akin to art than a meal. He has since served a steady stream of neighborhood customers, which until the pandemic forced the local sandwich shops’ closure for seven weeks. Ken knew he wouldn’t be able to serve his customers during the first weeks of the pandemic and with no response from his Paycheck Protection Program application; he had no choice but to close his doors. However, after recently re-opening, he has been able to hire back all four members of his staff, at their regular wages. This was thanks in part to a grant from another shop in the neighborhood who personally delivered their support; after being loyal customers many years.
The New Normal
To keep his employees and customers safe, Turner invested in new equipment and training; including the use of the small dining room as a temporary kitchen to keep his employees socially distant. Before opening, he and his staff were tested for COVID-19 and Turner created a bio for each of his employees detailing their negative test result and their pledge to keep socially distant. Ken posted the employee bios to remind his customers that their well-being is his highest priority. In addition, the sandwich shop has been promoting contact-less payments and an online ordering platform is in the works.
Ken lives across the street from his sandwich shop and he considers the safety of his customers and the community to be paramount. Turner said his clientele is mostly from his neighborhood, stating that he doesn’t offer a food delivery service or corporate dining. The responses from the neighbors regarding the new safety measures have been very positive. “My customers appreciate the changes we have made for their health and well-being and they have been very supportive. We have seen very generous tips since we reopened and while we were closed, we saw a surge of gift card sales which helped keep us afloat and helped us to reopen quicker.”
While Ken was preparing to reopen the restaurant, he was also cooking up new revenue avenues. He started offering CSA boxes filled with the Acme high quality meats and produce that he uses in the shop. Turner maintains good relationships with his vendors and knew there was a way to help everyone through the pandemic. He reached out to the farmers and ranchers that he usually works with and bought a surplus of the crops that he now offers to his customers. “It’s a way for our neighbors to get farm fresh produce without having to visit a farmers market where it is much harder to be socially distant” he explained.
Due to the pandemic related constraints, Turner has pared down his menu; offering only half of the items and the rotating specials have become even more special. Turner’s Kitchen usually offers three daily special sandwiches; which are always the best sellers, but now Ken is only able to offer one specialty sandwich and sometimes even that is a stretch. “I basically just have to make whatever we can with the fresh ingredients that I have on hand that day.” He noted that he feels more creative now than ever because of that. This old school sandwich shop will continue to serve up its classic subs to their loyal customers and create new items as the creativity surges.
Ken’s approach to reopening has been incredibly thoughtful and has brought life back to the neighborhood after weeks of uncertainty.