March 13 would be the last “normal” night of service at The Local at The Lankford, a popular farm-to-table restaurant in Tifton. The coronavirus pandemic had begun impacting people and businesses around Georgia.
“Our last night of dining service was less of a St. Patrick’s Day party than we had hoped for,” said Jennifer Scarbrough. She owns the restaurant with her husband David, the chef. “Our team definitely knew things were about to change. But none of us knew just how much.
The Scarbroughs pivoted to providing takeout, only to realize their business model did not easily adjust to the switch.
“Our restaurant is all about the experience, the amazing locally sourced food, handcrafted drinks, the presentation and atmosphere.”
So, they closed it, taking time off to assess damages and develop a game plan. When the CARES relief bill passed, they reached out to Rob Martin, area director of the UGA Small Business Development Center in Albany for guidance in applying for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury and Distastes Loans (EIDL).
While waiting for the loan approvals, they found a new market for natural dog treats they had made and posted on social media. They sold the treats, creating a temporary revenue stream that would help – along with the nearly $30,000 in PPP and EIDL loan proceeds they received – keep their seven employees on the payroll until they could re-open The Local.
They then came up with a new takeout model, The Local To Go, partnered with a local business to develop popular Quarantini Kits, and opened a farmer’s market to support their producers.
“It’s critical during these times that businesses think this way,” said Martin. “They should ask, what are new streams of revenue we can produce, or how do we expand our existing lines so we will survive?”
On May 25, The Local re-opened on reduced hours, following all coronavirus safety protocols.
“We’ve been grateful to have Rob as our UGA SBDC ‘therapist’ through this experience,” said Jennifer. “He not only understands the restaurant business, but he kept us sane, guiding us through all our crazy questions and listened when we needed it.”