Joe Mays, managing partner of The Chop House at 1704 N. Eastman Road, said staying open is not to make money but to give folks continued access to some of their favorite foods in a time of concern and keep a few employees working at a time when many aren’t. The new operation has three employees in back, the kitchen area, and three in front for pickups, Mays said, although he said more might be added if additional sales emerge.
That’s compared to a normal staff of between 85 and 90 total working full and part time over multiple shifts.
“We’re taking orders over the phone,” Mays said.
Customers can use the curbside service by calling (423) 247-1704, with the website and menu online at thechophouse.com/.
“We really like to take it (the order) to the passenger side,” Mays said.
And if a patron pays by credit card and uses a pen to sign, the person bringing the food immediately sanitizes the pen and the clipboard before they are used by anybody else. One of those patrons Tuesday afternoon was Carla Beverly of Jonesborough. She works in Kingsport and was on her way home after getting dinner for her and her husband.
“It was extremely busy last night,” Mays said of business on the first day of curbside service. “It’s keeping some of us going.”
The dining room closed Sunday under orders of Gov. Bill Lee, the same coronavirus executive order that closed restaurant dining rooms across the Volunteer State and limited them to drive through, carryout or curbside.
“People just want to do something to keep going,” Mays said. “It’s more hope than anything.”
The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce has posted a website, KingsportStrong.com, that lists Kingsport restaurants offering takeout, delivery or curbside meals. It is updated as things change.
WHAT IS THE CHOP HOUSE?
The Chop House has operated in Kingsport for about 28 years, Mays said, but never like this.
Mays said the restaurant in recent years did about 20% of its business as carryout, ranging over time from 15% to 23%. But after the dining room closed at 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday’s business went to 100% curbside.
Curbside operating hours starting Monday until further notice are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
He said the goal is to sell $2,000 in lunches and $4,000 in dinner. The first day was about $1,000 for lunch and $3,000 for dinner, he said. Business was brisker Tuesday, he said.
“I don’t want to shut down,” Mays said, although he added: “We’re not making any money.”
The Chop House is part of a Knoxville-based operation called Connor Concepts Inc. He said four other Chop House locations are offering 20% off, but the Connors Steak & Seafood in Knoxville is not. All told, the chain has 10 Chop House locations in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee and five Connors Steak & Seafood in Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.
Mays said he looked at the idea of offering a limited menu at 20% off and said he understands restaurants that do that to make it easier to operate. However, he said cutting out items means some people’s favorites would be off the menu, just as many restaurants closing means people won’t have access to their favorite eateries.
“Something is definitely better than nothing,” Mays said. “If you shut everything down, it just makes it worse.”