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Local pizza shops striving to carry on with carryouts

As many food establishments are temporarily closing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, some have elected to stay open. And for some local shops in the county, there wasn’t much of a choice.

While pizza shops are normally thought of to be prime businesses for delivery, the virus creates new obstacles for local shops. Because of staff reductions, many pizza places are implementing new protocol and strategies to continue to serve their communities. And even during a time of isolation and panic, local residents have continued to support their favorite local pizza establishments.

Due to distancing requirements restaurants are currently short-handed, which can make the job much more unpredictable, especially for R’ Pizza in Columbiana, which makes its dough through a complex, multi-step process.

R’ Pizza Owner Barb Roth said that while the number of staff working at once has decreased, the hours of work have increased, as employees come in at 7:30 a.m. to prepare the dough for the day. While the two-hour process of making one batch of dough is unchanged, the amount of dough they need for a day has been less predictable. Roth said that the process cannot be rushed in order to make the dough properly.

“We’ve shortened our opening hours but increased our staffing hours,” Roth said. “We are having people come in early, getting their prepping and dough-making done, and they are leaving when the actual order-takers and pizza makers come in. This reduces the number of people on the floor at one time.”

The staff has also worked after hours to prepare and clean up for the morning shift. Internally, R’ Pizza is doing its part by ensuring six feet between employees, sanitizing all surfaces, wearing gloves and limiting contact with customers, who are able to pick up their orders at the pick-up window.

Roth said that waiting times may increase by a few minutes if they are busy, but it would help them out if customers called ahead of time. Although they don’t make the pizzas ahead of time to keep them fresh, it gives the workers a better way to plan and prepare, as opposed to limited workers having to answer the phone and put in each order while trying to make the pizza.

In Lisbon, Italo’s Pizza has made adjustments too, cutting down the amount of staff in the kitchen at one time to ensure social distancing. Because of the limited kitchen staff, they have shifted their focus to just pizza products, as they have also stopped serving breakfast. They have adjusted their hours from 2-8 p.m.

“Kitchens are tight spaces, and that’s one of the reasons we are going to just pizza,” Italo’s Pizza Owner Jeff Andrews said. “This way we can reduce the number of people working at a time and keep everybody six feet apart, so we aren’t bumping into each other like normal.”

Italo’s has never delivered, but they do have a carryout window where customers can get their orders while limiting contact. On days when weather allows it, Andrews dresses up as a slice of pizza to promote their hot-and-ready, medium $10 cheese or pepperoni pizza deal from 4-7 p.m.

While Italo’s can get backed up at times, it has been a smooth process so far according to Andrews, as they have had no problems keeping up with orders. If it does get busy, Andrews would encourage customers to call in earlier or allow a few extra minutes.

In a crucial time for local businesses, Roth and Andrews both expressed how grateful they are for the support from their communities. Roth said that the number of tips that people are leaving for carryout orders for the workers has been amazing, and it shows her that people appreciate that the staff is still working. Roth said that she and Dave Roth, her husband and co-owner, are so appreciative of the community, and the resources that Columbiana has can help get everyone through this time.

“The employees and Dave and I are grateful that while our business has been impacted, it’s not going to put us in peril,” Roth said. “We’re getting through this, and if it stays this way for a long time and we still have carryout, we’re going to make it through, regardless of the duration.”

Andrews said he has noticed that a lot of people have been helpful by buying from local businesses.

“People know that we are available, and it’s something they can just drive by and pick up,” Andrews said. “We’re very appreciative and hope we can put a smile on everyone’s face.”

slendak@mojonews.com

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