Not Quite Done: Marietta Barbecue Joint’s reactions to The ‘Rona change business for the better

Published by James Hunter on

Not Quite Done: Marietta Barbecue Joint's reactions to The 'Rona change business for the better

Editors Note: This story is part of our COVID-19 (the ‘rona) series. Click to learn more about our local ‘rona coverage.

Pandemic Problems

Many Georgians began 2020 with plans for change. After all, a new decade deserves much introspection and preparation than just any other new year. While we were planning for self-improvement, we didn’t exactly anticipate something that doesn’t give a damn about us or our cute little wishes. 

Unlike Georgians changing themselves and the world for the better, the ‘rona (COVID-19) has negatively changed the course of human history.

Like individuals, small businesses make plans to grow every year. While the ‘rona continues to plague everyone with unexpected challenges, one barbecue restaurant in Marietta has found light in the darkness.

Like all Georgia eateries that remain open, Righteous ‘Que is currently operating in a diminished capacity, only offering curbside or takeout orders. 

Eric Hunt, general manager of Righteous, had to make unfortunate sacrifices and cuts in staffing hours. Alongside his team at Righteous, Hunt closely watched the ‘rona spread quickly throughout the U.S., and they began planning how to keep the machine rolling.

“We were kinda planning for the worst,” Hunt said, “We knew it was only a matter of time until we wouldn’t be doing business as usual, so that’s how curbside came to mind.”

Curbside pick-up is not a new idea, but it’s currently keeping Righteous in business. The restaurant is located in a Publix shopping center, so it’s guaranteed a steady amount of traffic, even during these strange times. 

Manager Eric Hunt pictured in front of Righteous 'Que dining room swag. James Hunter | Avant-Youth

 After placing a sign out front informing people of the curbside service, the orders came rolling in. Righteous soon began receiving so many to-go orders they were forced to change their entire website and revamp the to-go ordering system.

What began as a bad situation resulted in Righteous offering a new service for the future. 

“If there’s any silver lining in the business aspect of it, it’s that our online ordering is now infinitely easier. We set it up to where online orders go directly to the POS system,” Hunt said. “The new website is pretty successful. However, we excel in customer connection, so when things go back to normal, I’d still prefer people coming in the store.”

It’s worth noting that before the pandemic, catering was virtually all of their online business. The only remaining options were to add curbside and make the online process easier.

More Challenges

It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Righteous, though.

Hunt and the management team had to make difficult decisions about staffing in order to survive. Hunt said, “All in all, we’re hanging in there with business that we’re able to do. But with the percentage of labor we’re doing, we have to make cuts.”

Before the ‘rona, catering accounted for roughly 30 percent of sales. Without any catering orders, Hunt is unable to offer enough hours to his employees. With a shortage of hours, Hunt handled the difficult task to divide up hours.

Righteous has been forced to cut approximately $1,000 of weekly labor. That doesn’t leave many hours for employees, so Hunt is forced to make even tougher decisions in the fairest manner possible.

He said, “Not all of our people are high school kids, so we have to make sure we’re being fair to everyone but still recognize that some of our employees have mortgages and rent. You know, people whose lives depend on that paycheck.”

Initially anticipating a busy summer season, Hunt had hired a few extra employees to help manage the volume of business. 

Unfortunately, the ‘rona hit the U.S. while training these new workers, and it ended up creating a few issues: 

(1) There are no hours available to give these new workers training. 

(2) The system that the trainees would be learning would become obsolete once the ‘rona settled down.

Community Support

Righteous works everyday “combining a love of homemade BBQ with a passion for giving back to the Metro-Atlanta community.”

Eric Hunt (L) and employee Sammy Siasia (R) showing off some fresh brisket. James Hunter | Avant-Youth

To live up to its mission, the barbecue shack celebrates a “‘Que for a cause.” Once a month (usually a Saturday), it donates a percentage of its sales to a local charity of its choice.

Extending their commitment to the community, Righteous expanded its ‘Que for a cause to support first responders and medical workers during the pandemic. From March 27 – April 4, the restaurant took in-store donations and brought meals to the employees at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta. Righteous destroyed its goal of $1,000, surpassing that sum of donations on March 27 alone.

By and large, Hunt thinks the community has returned the favor. 

“People are coming in and helping out, definitely. I’m not even sure people always want our food when they come in, even though it’s pretty dope. On the radio you hear a lot of people saying to support your small businesses, and I think people are really rallying around that,” Hunt said.

How to Help

If you know a small business that you’d like to help out, here are a few tips to accomplish that:

  1. Gift Cards: Almost every retail store or restaurant offers gift cards these days. Purchase a gift card and come back to get your goods when the lockdown is lifted. Many stores are even offering discounts on their gift cards, so this may be a good time to stock up.
  2. Word of Mouth: Support a business by hopping onto Yelp and your preferred social media platforms to spread the word. (Be sure to include what they’re doing during quarantine to ensure safety and to draw customers). Tell friends and family in your area about the business.
  3. Tip Generously: As previously mentioned, working hours for most small business employees are at a premium right now. Help make up for these reduced hours by leaving a generous tip. Besides, employees are as important as the business itself.
  4. Stay Home (But reach out): We know you’ve been told this by everyone everywhere, but it’s worth reminding that the best way to slow down the pandemic is to stay at home – but ask your local businesses what they’re doing for alternative contributions.
James Hunter | Avant-Youth

Not all companies are as fortunate as Righteous. Rent, credit card payments and other utilities are still due, and businesses all around Georgia are folding from the unforeseen crisis. 

Survival for “non-essential” small businesses means anticipating change and doing something different. Companies must continue looking for their version of lightning in a bottle to help get them through these terrible, frankly bizarre and trying times.

Who knows? While trying to stay afloat during the tide of the ‘rona, small businesses may find something that can take them to a new level of operation like Righteous.

If you know of any more local businesses or organizations creatively handling the ‘rona woes, please comment below or reach out to us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!

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James Hunter

James Hunter

James Hunter is a bilingual journalist and production assistant based in Atlanta. He enjoys traveling, hiking and cooking while maintaining a healthy obsession with combat sports. Hunter’s love of people and new experiences give him a curious nature with a desire to understand our world.

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