COVID-19 serves up trouble for local restaurants

Local restaurants in Grayslake during COVID-19


Henry Rowe

Dog and Suds on a relatively slow evening.

Henry Rowe, Staff Reporter

It’s no secret the spread of the coronavirus has changed many aspects of life. One industry hit the hardest is the local restaurant scene. Grayslake is home to many restaurants that both large and small have seen the adverse effects of the epidemic. Many business owners have been forced to find new and innovative ways to both turn a profit and get food to those who need it most. Jason Axelrod owner and operator of Dog and Suds is one such business owner. Axelrod is looking to overcome the difficulty of getting products to customers.

“So, we’ve had to add additional avenues to get our customers. We’ve had to add online ordering and partner with delivery services like Doordash and Grubhub. With that comes some disadvantages. GrubHub and Doordash charge a large commission of your sales for their service, so while it does give you delivery service and access to your customers, they end up taking up a pretty big chunk of the money made from sales and that’s alongside the new charges from the extra packaging we have to use to get our items safely to the customer,“ said Axelrod.

Despite the extra costs, Dog and Suds will not be changing the prices of any items off of their menu.

“We actually are just eating or incurring the cost just so that we can stay relevant.  We also understand that a lot of our customers are probably also feeling this in their pocketbook,” added Axelrod.

Axelrod has been using delivery to find new business opportunities and to aid many in Grayslake.

“We are working to give back to the community. We launched our ‘First Responder Meal Package’ to thank and support everyone on the frontlines in the hospitals, alongside the local police and fire department. We delivered a lot to the Northwestern Hospital and drove up to give [the meal packages] to Advocate Hospital in Libertyville. We also partnered with the sheriff’s department to give them some meals.” said Axelrod.

Like many restaurants, Dog and Suds has been forced to make changes quickly. Axelrod and many other restaurants were not alerted in advance to the changes they would have to undertake

“We found out from Governor Pritzker on the news. We were not alerted to anything. We didn’t get anything in the mail, we didn’t get a phone call, we didn’t have any notification before the general public did. We actually heard we’d be forced to change our business model over the news. Our management staff had a meeting that same day and just try to adapt and come up with a plan overnight.” said Axelrod

Another business owner who was not alerted to the changes they would need to make was Linda Scholz owner of Something’s Brewing. Scholz was taken back by how little time Something’s Brewing had to change their business model to keep customers and workers safe.

“Things got really crazy when the Governor made that first announcement that he was closing restaurants and bars in Illinois.  This was right after Saint Patrick’s Day, and he was upset about that. I went for a walk and when I got back to Something’s Brewing all my employees were texting and calling because the state did not notify us. We heard about this on the news like everybody else. That was a real shock because we only had until the next day we had to shut our dining room down. So I got on the phone right away and canceled all the food orders we had made that day because I didn’t know what to do. We went at a very slow pace the first two weeks,” said Scholz.

Scholz is using her store to help bring joy to those in Grayslake by introducing new items to lighten many in these dark times and allow cooking at home to be easier.

“My other store is called Uniquely Sweet, and we make chocolate there. We designed four different labels to go on our chocolate bars and they all say things related to that sort of poke fun at the situation. We have one that shows a roll of toilet paper and says ‘I’d spare a square for you’ and another that says ‘se in case of emergency.’. So we’re using these products to keep people thinking about our business and to just give people a laugh. We also are also selling new food products. We now sell the seasoning we use on our tater-babies because people are cooking at home more. We make all of our dressings and because no one can really dine here, we are bottling our dressing.” said Scholz

Scholz has used her business to inspire good cheer in more ways than one. Scholz has allowed people to still feel the easter spirit in quarantine.

“I had bought an Easter bunny costume for Easter and was worried that I couldn’t use it, but my husband did his deliveries on Easter dressed as the Easter bunny just to make the kids feel better. He really played it up, he went up to the door hopping and the kids absolutely ate it up! It was great to see something we do create such a sense of fun in our community,” said Scholz.

While the virus will eventually be defeated, the effect it will have on restaurants in Grayslake could be permanent. Scholz has made some permanent changes to her business. 

“I purchased a shield for our cashiers, and it will be almost impossible to remove. I don’t know if that’s ever coming down. Going forward, we will have to work with less staff. I also don’t know when we can open our dining room back up or get food to our customers without having to deliver or use curbside pickup,” said Scholz.

Dog and Suds will also likely deal with the changes caused by the virus once things go back to normal.

“I don’t really know if things really can go back to normal. I think it could potentially force restaurants to operate in a different fashion. We specifically could be permanently affected as I feel that people will be hesitant to frequent restaurants and interact with others. Our restaurant operates as a drive-in, so people could be cautious about that face to face interaction with our carhops and be reluctant to actually sit outside at our picnic tables to eat. At most restaurants, if you don’t see a lot of cars in the lot, you will be a lot less likely to go and order something. I’m afraid that really could hurt us as our business is designed so that it’s easy to tell how many people are there,” said Axelrod.

Even though Covid-19 is having a dramatic impact on daily lives, it is nice to see these restaurants adapt to the changes and continue to provide their familiar good service and food.  While the world is in overdrive, it is nice to think that we can still sit back with a root beer from Dog and Suds at least for a minute or two.  And, after all this is over, it is nice to think how we’ll be able to catch up with our friends and family at these restaurants that have made Grayslake a truly special place in the past, present and future.