Out for Delivery: Where do we eat now?

Nicholas Tucker, Editor-in-Chief

In mid-March, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the prohibition of in-person dining at restaurants across the state. The effects of this order on the $13.5 billion-dollar industry have yet to be fully seen, but with over 300,000 employees potentially affected, Washington’s restaurants have had to adapt quickly.

“I didn’t really believe it at first,” Mario Alfaro, owner of The Red Pickle said.

Due to the transition to delivery orders, The Red Pickle had to temporarily lay off many of their employees. Alfaro said he is looking forward to when the order is lifted and he can hire all of them back again.

In addition to affecting the number of customers The Red Pickle gets, the order has had an effect on the supply side of business as well. Dominique Addison, The Red Pickle’s head chef, said the order prevented the restaurant from getting the locally-grown microgreens and other produce they use. 

“It just gave our food a connection to the community and gave a punch to the taste. We’ve had to go to other suppliers for now but we’re looking forward to when we can go back to getting things locally,” Addison said.

The change of ingredients hasn’t kept The Red Pickle’s most loyal customers from enjoying their food. Addison said they still get large orders to feed families, including one which had a meal delivered from Ellensburg to Seattle. The Red Pickle is currently open on most days from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.. However, according to Dante Palmisano, one of the two owners of Ano Delivery, on Friday April 3 The Red Pickle closed at 5:30 p.m. due to the sheer amount of orders they received throughout the day.

The Red Pickle has been working closely with Ano Delivery throughout the shutdown. Ano was started by two CWU students last year, Palmisano and Juan Zamorano, who have seen their business booming recently. 

“Our goal for this year was to be averaging 30 deliveries [per day],” Palmisano said. “The past two weeks, we’ve been averaging 30 to 40 a day, and then we hit 50 on Friday.”

Since the shutdown, the two students went around Ellensburg to different restaurants, asking if they would be interested in a partnership. While many of their app-based competitors have a limited radius of operation, Palmisano and Zamorano say their willingness to deliver anywhere has given them a great increase in business, and that they regularly drive to Yakima and Cle Elum to bring customers the Ellensburg cuisine they enjoy.

“There’s this blind guy that we deliver food to and he got the chicken and waffles from The Red Pickle, and he explained exactly what was going on the whole time he was eating it,” Zamorano said. “He was like ‘the waffles and the syrup man, holy shit!’ telling us both on separate times about his experience.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Ano Delivery has implemented multiple measures to keep themselves and their customers safe. They have encouraged their customers to use contactless payment, using services like Cashapp to avoid the potentially risky exchange of bills, and have also begun wearing masks when delivering to those in at-risk populations.

Some Ellensburg restaurants haven’t had to adapt their businesses much to keep their operations going.  Josie Williams, owner of Campus U-Tote-Em, always wanted a bigger dining area. The lot that Campus U-Tote-Em is on doesn’t have enough space for expansion, which disappointed Williams until she heard the announcement from Gov. Inslee.

“80 percent of our business goes through the drive-through anyway, so we were really lucky that we didn’t have to change too much,” Williams said. 

 This means Williams has so far been able to keep her staff employed. However, she said she understands the impact that the shutdown is having on other restaurants in Ellensburg, and has been making a conscious effort to patronize their fellow local businesses more often.

“There are restaurants that me and my husband had never eaten at before the shutdown,” Williams said. “But many of them don’t have a drive-through and are having a rough time, so we’re just trying to give them our business whenever we can.”