RANTOUL — Although the entire state went on a soft lockdown March 21, restaurants have been scrambling to stay open since March 16. That is when the Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all restaurants and bars to close except for dine-in and carry-out only.
While some establishments were able to change their routine, others like Rantoul eateries Butcher Boy and Red Wheel closed until further notice.
Luckily in Rantoul those two restaurants were in the minority. Chained franchises such as Arby’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Jimmy John’s, Monicals, Papa John’s, Subway and El Toro are open for business through drive-thru and pick up.
While most franchised establishments can make it through unprecedented times, it can be tougher for small businesses.
Rantoul had seven small businesses stay open through the sit-down closure.
Agave, Casa Fiesta, ET’s, Ott’s Drive-In, TK’s, Taste of Thai and Yellow Ducky Express are all still open for business.
Some of those places did have to make adjustments to their hours to try and make things work.
Ott’s Drive-In owner Tony Grilo said he adjusted hours and added a wrinkle to his everyday operation.
“The first week we modified our hours, we opened later which was 7 a.m. and stay opened later until 8 p.m.,” Grilo said. “Then starting Tuesday the 24th we took off dinner because the staff members would like to avoid getting sick. So we went back to 7 a.m.- 2 p.m., but we will reevaluate each week.”
TK’s CheeseSteaks owner Tim Foley was lucky enough to not have his business affected too much.
“I have a sit-down area, but it doesn’t get used as much as it should. So most of our business is carry out normally anyway,” Foley said.
Ott’s was not so lucky due to its normal steady flow of sit-down customers.
“We had more take-outs than normal, but we were much slower then normal because of the no sit down,” Grilo said.
Eric Thompson of ET’s said they have had steady carry out orders and plan to keep the same hours through out the shut down.
Ott’s is trying to work with their employees to try and help them out the best they can.
“We are giving staff members hours if they want them, but if they would like to stay home, we are allowing that as well,” Grilo said.
Papa John’s in Rantoul reached out via Facebook looking to add help to the store via delivery drivers. General Manager Kelly Rife says that she had more in mind then just needing help with the store.
“I’m the general manager but also a member of the community so I was hoping to help people who were out of a job and give them some short term relief,” Rife said. “I have gotten a few new drivers hired, maybe not as much as I was hoping or expecting but we did get some drivers because of the Facebook post.”
With schools out, that means some kids are struggling to have steady meals. Along with the school districts providing food TK’s is making sure children have plenty of options.
“The meals we are giving out to kids are for families that can’t afford to feed their kids and rely on the schools for a lot of meals,” Foley said. “We are here and can help so we are going to.”
TK’s is offering children a free meal when they come to the restaurant.
Pritzer’s order runs through April 7. It is unknown if it will be extended.