Steve Early and Mary Shepard picked up their lunch, a boxed and bagged salmon BLT, from Elements Restaurants on Thursday.
Standing between rows of upturned chairs on tables, they said giving business to Elements made their meal special for them.
“It’s very important to support local restaurants,” Early said. “If they stay open, we’ll come back once a week.”
By Thursday, roughly a third of downtown Vancouver’s restaurants had closed until further notice, and while the state remains in a stay-at-home order, more restaurants are stopping service until the restrictions are lifted. But at Elements, the owners are doing everything they can to keep the business open while they wait for life to return to normal.
“It’s break-even at this point,” said head chef and co-owner Miguel Sosa.
Like many businesses, Elements took to social media to reach customers at home and make them aware of how the restaurant has shifted to takeout and delivery. They’ve changed the menu to have items that keep well in delivery boxes, such as chicken mole and rice.
Sosa also has posted recipes on social media, and the Elements website has a new function that takes to-go orders.
“Being active on social media has been the best practice,” said Michael Walker, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “But as a whole, restaurants have had a really difficult time. Some businesses were getting more orders than others. It depends on how able they are to adapt.”
Elements is averaging about 15 orders a day, Sosa said, and he’s not sure how much longer the company can keep its doors open with that amount of business: Elements, like most other restaurants, is taking things day-by-day.
Most restaurants have had to place workers on standby or cut them, and Elements is no exception. Sosa has had to cut his own wages to keep the business open too.
“At this point, I’m not paying myself,” Sosa said.
Within the last week, high-profile Vancouver restaurants Bleu Door Bakery and Mighty Bowl closed until further notice.
Walker said he’s not heard of any restaurants closing permanently because of the loss of business, but he estimates about a quarter are shut down while the state is ordering people to stay at home.
Allison Sosa, Elements co-owner and event coordinator, said that she thinks the restaurant industry could see trends like take-home orders continue after the virus restrictions are lifted.
“This special may be an option later on,” she said.
Allison Sosa said she saw a wave of closures after Gov. Jay Inslee issued the stay-at-home order.
“Many figured it wasn’t worth it at that point,” she said. “But there’s still a need out there. People are going to get to the point where they don’t want to cook at home anymore.”