The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down.

Measures to minimize its spread have left the restaurant industry reeling as tables sit empty in dining rooms across the country.

Rim Country owners and managers are wrestling with the uncertainty of how bad things might get and how to take care of their employees.

Since Gila County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, restaurants are allowed to keep their dining rooms open, but will have to close those as soon as there is a case. They will still be able to offer delivery and takeout. Many restaurants have adapted and are offering curbside and delivery service.

Culver’s

The Payson Culver’s, 805 E. Highway 260, adapted that policy on Thursday, now serving guests at the drive-thru window or if they call to place an order and pick it up in front of the restaurant. It’s an effort to limit person-to-person contact.

To place an order over the phone, call 928-363-4433.

The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but owner Steve Chlupsa said that they will probably shorten those hours at some point. “We’ll wait and see,” he said.

Duza’s Kitchen

Duza’s Kitchen, 703 W. Main St., is also offering curbside pickup.

Owners Mensur and Victoria Duzic knew they would have to deal with slower customer traffic when they opened near the start of the offseason in October at 703 W. Main St.

But they couldn’t have foreseen what they’re facing now.

“We knew we were coming into the slow season of Payson, but with everything that’s arrived (now) it has slowed down (even more),” Victoria said. “With the announcements the town is making, I think people are staying in more.”

So, they do what they can.

“We’re trying to be creative with the options we offer customers like pickup or curbside,” she said.

As of Thursday, they were still allowing some small groups of customers to dine in. But she doesn’t know how much longer that will be allowed. Government agencies first recommended limiting gatherings to no more than 500 people, then 250, then 100, 50, 20 and most recently 10.

“Every time we get a new announcement it changes,” Victoria said. “We allow up to 10 people at a time, as they recommended.

“But it’s definitely affecting our business. It’s slow and people are being cautious. I think everybody’s seeing the same thing. People are staying home more and more figuring out what their next step is. We’re all in uncharted waters. There’s no real answers.”

She said they have no plans to lay off any of their seven other employees. Some have opted to stay home.

“Some decided they’d rather stay home just because of the scare,” she said. “People are taking the precautions the town and state are recommending and staying home.

“The others, we’re trying to rotate them in. No one has been let go and we don’t plan on that. We’re hoping we’re back staffed fully in a week or two.”

You’ve always been able to call in your order and come in and pick it up. But now Duza’s Kitchen has more options like curbside pickup.

“For people who don’t want to come in, we’ll be happy to bring it out to them,” Victoria said. “We even had a person call and ask if we could deliver, and one of our employees volunteered to do it. It’s not our normal model, but we’re trying to adapt to the situation to provide food for people.”

They’ve also started selling gift cards. She said it’s a great way to support your favorite restaurant by pumping needed money into the business.

“The community has come together thinking outside of the box for us, which is great to see,” Victoria said.

They’ve shortened their hours as required by the state mandate. They’re now open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. They’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Call 928-363-4011 to place an order.

Pinewood Tavern

Pinewood Tavern, 6112 Hardscrabble Mesa Road in Pine, has also added curbside pickup. They still offer the option to dine in, although they’re limiting the number of folks that can be in the dining area at one time.

“If we get more than a couple of people in at once we’re kind of stopping traffic,” said general manager Sarah Elftmann.

They’ve halted their Monday Dart Nights, Thursday Trivia Nights and live music on Saturdays.

And they’ve increased their cleaning and sanitizing.

They ordered extra toilet paper from their distributor, which arrived on Thursday. They’ve set up a table and are giving rolls away to customers in need. There’s a tip jar on the table if anyone wants to pitch in to help the employees who are hurting financially with cuts in hours and tips. They’ll split the tips with all the employees.

“From what we heard, anything over 50 is not OK, so we’re limiting it to 20,” Elftmann said.

She said they don’t really have to worry about pushing that limit. She said business has dropped about 50%.

“Business is very, very slow,” she said. “We definitely got hit hard. We’re feeling it.”

She said they’re trying to do what they can for their 15-20 employees.

“We have not let anybody go,” she said. “We just explained to our staff that it’s going to be a tough couple of weeks and we’re going to rotate hours. We’re also offering servers time in the kitchen to learn to cook so if we go down to only to-go orders.”

Call 928-363-4000 to order.

Chili’s

Chili’s Grill & Bar, 900 S. Beeline Highway, is still offering dine-in service and they offer curbside pickup.

Call 928-468-7036 to order. For the curbside pickup service, download the app and check in on it when you arrive.

They’re hours haven’t changed: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Manager Valerie Smith said they’ve definitely noticed a drop in the number of customers.

“We’re just pretty dead generally,” she said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of business.”

Cruisin Delights

Cruisin Delights offers delivery service to a growing number of restaurants, including Alfonso’s, El Rancho, Culture Crepe, Native Grill & Wings and the Mandarin House.

There’s a delivery fee of $5 for Payson, $6 for Star Valley and Mesa del and $7 for Round Valley, Diamond Point and East Verde Estates. You may also order from Subway and Wendy’s and they’ll deliver it to you with a small service fee added.

Owner Mario Barraza said they’ll likely add the option of having the driver drop the order at the door.

He was averaging 20 to 30 deliveries a day a few months ago and hasn’t noticed an increase in business. But he knows that may change in this current climate, and he may have to add more drivers.

To order from a restaurant they serve, download the FoodBooking app for iPhone, the Cruisin Delights app for Android phones or visit their website at cruisindelights.com.

They deliver from the time the business opens to an hour before it closes.

“I just talked to the owner of Native Grill and he doesn’t want his employees to lose work,” Barraza said. “So I’m going to bring in some of the workers as drivers if that business comes in. So, we’re preparing for that before it gets busy. We’re just trying to anticipate where the situation’s going to go.”

Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s, 303 E. Highway 260, has always delivered, but is now giving customers the option to request that the driver leave their food at the door to avoid contact. Download their app and check the “leave at door” option when checking out or order online at jimmyjohns.com.

Filiberto’s delivers

Filiberto’s, 505 S. Beeline Highway, will delivery orders at no charge with a $10 minimum order. They have a drive-thru window and are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. To order, call 928-474-3201.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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