In response to a state-mandated deadline for restaurants and bars to close their dining areas, many Cache Valley restaurants are binding together in the Cache Valley Local Restaurant Cooperative.
The cooperative’s objective is to help local businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, keep jobs available for community members and give access to the best local cuisine in the valley through free delivery. According to the cooperative’s website, around 17 restaurants have joined.
Cafe Sabor Manager Skyler Parkhurst said the decision to focus on delivery preceded the news of state-mandated dining room shutdowns. Cafe Sabor and Off Premise Catering owner Justin Hamilton said after talking with other restaurant owners in the area, they determined a need to develop delivery alternatives to continue to drive business and help their service-based employees.
“I think the one thing that’s really unique about Cache Valley is that we all try to support each other,” Hamilton said. “This was a way for us to say, ‘You know what, let’s get some free delivery set up. We’ve got vans available and we’ve got manpower available.’”
Hamilton said businesses joining forces also provides strength in marketing while getting as many deliveries as possible during the downturn. Hamilton said they made an estimated 40 deliveries on Tuesday — some as far as Richmond, Mendon and Hyrum.
“If we kind of rally together as a group of restaurants we can help support one another,” Hamilton said.
Parkhurst said though there are many food delivery options — like DoorDash, Uber Eats and others — Parkhurst said they often take 15- to 30-percent cuts for delivery.
“A lot of restaurants will increase their prices 15 to 30 percent to kind of compensate,” Parkhurst said. “So when you do those deliveries online, people are paying a premium to have that done.”
But since folks don’t have the option to do anything differently, Parkhurst said, the cooperative is offering free delivery in Cache Valley. Parkhurst said they have a fleet of five delivery vehicles, with other restaurants contributing their catering vehicles as well.
Parkhurst said he and Hamilton reached out to local eateries with a story that matters to Cache Valley. Hamilton said the co-op isn’t an exclusive group; every few hours they are adding more businesses to the list.
For Hamilton, another aspect of the cooperative is to provide some positive news and hope for the community — to show that there are people in the community who are trying to bolster each other in their time of need.
“It seems like every time you turn on the news it’s something more down, down, down,” Hamilton said. “We just want to also give the community a little bit of good news.”
Hamilton said there have been a few concerns regarding logistics, like the minimum value of orders, but he says right now that’s less of a concern.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to help,” Hamilton said. “We want to just really make sure that everybody survives this downturn and stands together.”
Though the cooperative isn’t charging a fee for delivery, Hamilton said the people of Cache Valley are very generous. Using the local co-op delivery service, Hamilton said, helps keep the community employed. He said if a server makes $20 to $30 on deliveries, that could be the difference in paying their bills.
While delivery options help keep people employed — especially those in dire straits — Parkhurst said some employees are students wanting to leave their jobs and the area for their permanent homes, as recommended by Utah State University. Parkhurst said in Cafe Sabor there’s been a lot of honest, transparent conversation about who wants to work and who doesn’t.
“It’s just trying to communicate who’s in what situation,” Parkhurst said. “I feel like the employees’ reactions have been pretty understanding — obviously, there’s fear of the unknown, but I haven’t personally felt any hysteria or panic.”
Hamilton said Cache Valley Media Group was a great help in launching a website for the cooperative.
For more info, visit https://cachevalleyrestaurantdelivery.com.