SALINA – The famous Mom’s Café in Salina reopened its doors for dining in, May 1. Upon the COVID-19 crisis break out, Shawnee Boswell, owner and operator of Mom’s Café, said they implemented all of the necessary precautions to accommodate the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“At the beginning of the pandemic the initial guidelines consisted of precautions such as having hand sanitizer available for patrons and staff, as well as stricter cleaning requirements,” Boswell said. “We incorporated the precautions immediately by cleaning a lot more and even shutting down to clean and sanitize the restaurant.”
Mom’s Café switched to to-go orders only from March 16 to April 1 at which point it closed down completely, Boswell said.
“All our food is made fresh and while we were staying somewhat busy with the to-go orders it wasn’t enough to be worth coming in each day only to throw food out that hadn’t been sold by the end of the day,” Boswell said. “There simply was not enough business to make a profit.
“We stayed open with the to-go orders until the bulk of fresh food was gone and were fortunate to have lost less than $1,000 in inventory. It is the approximately $60,000 in lost business that really hurts,” Boswell said. “I do not see us recovering from it anytime soon. As long as restrictions are in place, we can only fit so many customers and we have to turn people away to abide by the restrictions. We also aren’t seeing the typical tourist activity we rely on. What we save during the summer months, we use to get through the slower winter months. Without the tourist traffic this year, I don’t know how we will get through.”
Being an independent restaurant, Boswell said she applied for and qualified for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is a federal plan that authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the coronavirus crisis. The PPP funds are restricted to being used for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utility costs over an eight-week period after the loan is made.
“The PPP was fairly easy to apply for and the funds were received quickly,” Boswell said. “Employees were laid off for a week between applying, receiving the money and getting payroll to the employees get them back on track. Employees were and are being paid what their normal average pay would be, which includes tip amounts waitresses claim each shift as that is part of the income they depend on. Yes, it is great financial assistance has been there, but we have to pay it back somewhere or our kids will – money is not free.”
Under the current guidelines, the restaurant has to close every four hours to sanitize, Boswell said. This is also done each time guests leave. Items have been removed from tables, tables have been adjusted to be six feet apart, all employees wear masks and hand sanitizer availability has been added. Even the pens have to be disinfected.
“Business is really slow,” Boswell said. “And, with the required guidelines and our not seeing the tourist traffic we usually experience, it is unlikely we will get back to where we need to be to get through the winter. Without the tourism, it makes it that much worse. We typically get quite a bit of traffic off Interstate 70, because Mom’s is known. We have customers stop every year on their family vacations.”
Boswell said all precautions are being taken as they don’t want anyone sick.
Such would end up slowing everything down further and Mom’s game plan is to try to get back to normal if at all possible. Boswell has tried to avoid dwelling on the bleak situation, understanding it is a hard time for everyone and has kept her mind busy with various college courses online.
“I suspect this crisis has affected the bulk of central Utah in similar ways as it has Mom’s Café,” Boswell said. “It would be comforting to know there might be some type of assistance months down the road if a business can show they are in need and about to close their doors. Even just help with lease payments through the winter could be extremely helpful to small businesses.
“We invite everyone to come in, we are open and taking every precaution to stay safe,” Boswell said.
Mom's Cafe continues to offer curbside service and online ordering.