Tallahassee restaurants bucking national trend and finding success amidst pandemic

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 10:59 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:08 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - According to Yelp, 60% of restaurants that shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic are now permanently closed.

Those that have re-opened have been forced to think outside the box.

But, despite all the uncertainty, WCTV has found that some in Tallahassee are expanding; mostly by the power of social media and taking advantage of opportunities that have surfaced because of the crisis.

We’ve entered a different era for the restaurant business, with many scrambling to figure out the new normal.

“I don’t normally go out to eat anywhere during the pandemic,” said Palmer Watson.

“Normally, I just do take out,” added Alexander Dally.

“It’s a mixture between trying to find places that are local, because I know it’s important to help them out, but sometimes for convenience sake, it’s Uber Eats to get it delivered,” said Jacob Torres.

And while some might be struggling, others are taking advantage.

Like Eric Riser of Munchies Pizza.

“The only way to spread word of what we’re doing and bring new costumers is in through social media,” Riser explained.

He says he rebounded from losing 70% of sales at the start of the pandemic by online buzz surrounding his new deep-dish pizza, which at one point this summer had a 1,400-person waitlist.

“The only way to sign up was through our Facebook page,” Riser said. “Initially, with zero marketing, we were having 50-70 people sign up every day.”

He’s now expanding, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, to a second location, hiring a dozen employees over the past two weeks.

It’s a strategy that 22-year-old Maxwell Winger is focusing on, too.

“The power of social media is stronger than ever,” Winger said.

He’s creating his own buzz online, ahead of the opening of his first Max’s location.

“Posting about the whole process and people really like to see how I’m changing the restaurant and making it my own,” he said.

He’s capitalizing on the pandemic by taking advantage of leasing opportunities and new norms for his business model.

“With COVID and everything, restaurants, it’s almost a way to evolve, in a positive way. Restaurants are only going to get better,” he said.

So far, Winger has hired eight employees.

Copyright 2020 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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