In this installment of our daily Q&A this week with a local restaurant owner dealing with restrictions during the COVID-19 emergency, we hear from Lorenzo Colella of Joe’s Pizza on Locust Avenue. Here’s our exchange.
New Canaanite: What has this past week been like for you?
It’s been pretty hectic. The new system of doing everything works well when they can’t come in but it takes planning. I had to hire two new kids, a high school kid and college kid. It’s just the logistics of it all when it’s busy.
How is you faring business-wise?
I am asking people to be patient. It just takes a bit longer. Otherwise we’ve been good. Business has been normal. Friday was normal, Saturday was normal and Tuesday and Wednesday were good. People are responding well to it all.
How would you gauge your ability to outlast this?
I think for my business, it’s the perfect business for this because I am pickup and delivery anyway. So it doesn’t change the.model, just the logistics of doing those things. We are taking credit cards not cash, people want us to leave deliveries on their doorstep, ring the doorbell and leave. People are asking for milk and eggs, too, and I am trying to get those things for people so they don’t have to go out. And we are charging whatever the supermarket is charging, trying to help. It has been working out. It has just been long days, I have to admit.
You also have a young son and baby daughter at home. How are you and your wife doing?
Good, I mean my wife is still working from home. She is in advertising, so she’s working from home a little in the morning and throughout the day, so in the morning I watch the kids for a couple of hours and she works as much as she can, and then I rush to shop and get to work. We are just compromising so that we can both go to work.
What are you doing differently at Joe’s?
We started a program where people can buy pizza and donate it for fire, police, EMTs, other people who are working to help the community. We sent pizzas to Water Stewarts. People an call in and for $10 they get $5 off each pizza and donate them to frontline workers. We are doing Norwalk and Stamford Hospital. Yesterday we did Walter Stewart’s workers, Acme workers, CVS, Walgreens. Today we are doing Greenwich Pharmacy and New Canaan Pharmacy workers, sending them pizzas. And then we will do the Parks and Highway Department guys. So people are sending pizzas as a donation, and I set up a Venmo today, at @JoesPizza-NewCanaan.
How is your staff?
Everybody is good. First of all, with their health I tell them go home and stay home, then come to work and don’t go anywhere. I am ordering food for them, whatever they need at home, so they don’t have to go out, because I need them healthy, otherwise this doesn’t work. They’re happy to be able to work. So many of their friends need to work. So many workers in restaurants need work. We are spraying everywhere, at the door counter, all the delivery bags are sanitized, the drivers all have hand sanitizer. I’m trying to do what I can, I don’t want to get sick either.
What have you been hearing from customers during this time?
For a lot of them, it has been hard staying in at home and not going out as much as they would like, but some others have said we have had more family dinners now than we have in the past five years. It’s bringing people together. They are staying together and becoming more like family.
What is your message for customers?
Stay safe. If you need something to eat, give us a call. But be positive and take this time to bond a little with your families and do things—that old school stuff like board games. Things that bring people together on a personal note, not through phones or internet or WiFi. Take advantage of this time and build your family strong, that would be a real good thing.