LINCOLN SQUARE — Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe’s volume of takeout orders has increased so much it’s running out of dough. Literally.
Owner Jimmy Kang sells New York-style pizza by the pie and the slice, as well as beignets and coffee. The restaurant at 5159 N. Lincoln Ave. was popular before the pandemic, but business has blown up since the stay at home order started.
“I don’t know what it is about Fridays, but they have been nuts,” Kang said. “Last week we sold out of dough because we had so many orders. We had 70 livid customers and I felt really bad. I gave a $25 credit to every single person. I’m really sorry about it, but we were busting at the seams with orders last week.”
Kang is asking customers to call ahead two hours before they need their pizza delivered and to be patient while they wait to place an order. He is also cutting off third-party delivery apps by 8 p.m. on Fridays.
The increased demand began March 20, the Friday before the stay at home order went into effect.
“That day, everyone was hungry and things were getting tense,” he said. “People weren’t keeping their social distance in the business because it was so packed. It was bad, like a fish tank.”
That unruly crowd led to new rules the following day. Only four people are allowed inside the business at a time and Kang set up separate lines outside for delivery drivers and for customers. Inside the shop are two areas for customers and for delivery drivers to wait for their orders.
“We’ve been getting gallons of hand sanitizer and have one of them with a pump on the counter at all times. We’ve also got a custom-cut sneeze guard installed now and I ordered a medical-grade air purifier. That’s on the way to us now, too,” Kang said.
It’s been more than a month since Gov. JB Pritzker ordered the statewide closure of restaurants and bars. Since then, restaurants in Chicago have seen an average 80 percent revenue loss, said Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.
Chicago could permanently lose up to 1,500 independent restaurants by the time the pandemic is over, industry experts predict.
Kang credits his thriving business to having robust delivery and pickup systems in place before the dine-in ban.
“Pizza works for families and groups who are staying home ,and we were positioned really well once the stay home order started. We have food that travels really well and in larger portions you can reheat later,” he said.
While Kang allows customers to use third-party delivery apps such as GrubHub, he uses his own delivery drivers and prefers customers call his business directly at 773-293-6992 to place orders.
Though business is booming now, Kang said he worries pizza orders might start to dry up as more people lose their jobs due to the shutdown.
“What happens four or five months from now when more people don’t have money to order pizza?” Kang said. “Yes, we need to slow the virus but this also isn’t sustainable for the long term. I hope it ends soon.”
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