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Restaurants look for find COVID-safe solutions with colder weather quickly approaching

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Future in Focus: McCall

With colder weather on the horizon in Valley County, officials and business owners got together for a “restaurant roundtable.”

The intention of the roundtable was to see how different business owners in the area fared in the summer and find solutions to navigate the colder seasons. 

“I think our common thread there is that when we see five feet of snow what does that look like for our restaurants,” Andrew Mentzer, the executive director of the West Central Mountains Economic Development Council said. “Especially the smaller proprietors who don’t have a lot of room to spread out. We’re trying to just be proactive about that.”

Results from summer 

Mentzer says that through a survey asking about the summer they received a mixed bag of answers. Some business owners did better than others. 

Maintaining staff continues to be one of the most prevalent problems business owners are facing. There are several reasons for this, such as the availability and costs of rentals in Valley County. 

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Mentzer said proprietors who offered both takeout and outdoor seating did well. 

Having enough staff to cover takeout and other services within the restaurant is especially essential to rural areas such as Valley County, which do not have delivery services like Uber Eats. Something Mentzer and other officials explored in the spring.

“The big challenge with those platforms is they take a pretty good chunk of change from each order,” he said. “… A lot of restaurants in our region operate on pretty small margins, and some of them run pretty high volumes. We have not experienced a whole lot of restaurants who are quickly trying to move in that direction.”

According to the Uber Eats website it charges restaurants a 30% delivery fee. Making it a less than desirable option for small restaurants in small towns. 

Looking ahead to colder weather

The City of McCall is in the early stages of figuring out ordinance codes for allowances for different outdoor dining options. Some ideas presented by proprietors and officials were outdoor heated tents and a food court.

“We have a lot of bright ideas,” Mentzer said. “We don’t want to jump into this discussion and suggest that we have solutions to these pretty major problems or challenges that are going to arise. And every single restaurant, every single retailer, every business of all varieties, is going to have unique challenges throughout this COVID-19.”

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Autum Robertson
Autum is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Ketchum, McCall and general news. Contact her at autum@boisedev.com.

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