“We tried to do dine-in out of desperation and unwillingly created negative attention, but we love and miss our customers,” said Saki Konstantos, a co-owner of George’s Family Restaurant. “Our customers are like family to us and we would like to see them again.”
After receiving a one-day closure order from the Oak Park Public Health Department for failing to comply with the indoor dining ban, George’s Family Restaurant, 145 S. Oak Park Ave., has changed course. The once defiant diner has transitioned to carry-out and delivery services only.
The following statement was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page Dec. 19:
“We’ve heard our local community loud and clear and would like everyone to know we are operating as a carry-out and delivery business only. We’ve been here since 1984 and would love to serve you for the foreseeable future. Help support us by ordering our fresh and delicious food.”
The statement, reposted to popular Takeout 25 Oak Park Facebook page, has been widely viewed and received favorably.
The exposure helped to increase carryout sales over the weekend. The boost in business was much needed and represented a 45% increase in sales last Sunday, but that revenue is less than half of what George’s would have generated on a pre-COVID Sunday. Overall, business at the Oak Park diner is down 70%.
“We need business but allowing a few people to eat in the restaurant wasn’t really about money,” said Konstantos. “I have elderly customers that live alone who would walk over to eat at George’s every day. I legitimately care about them and wonder what they will be eating in the interim.”
Though the restaurant drew negative attention from community members for failing to comply with the mandate, George’s Family Restaurant has made concerted efforts to keep customers safe and healthy during the pandemic. Prior to the second wave of dining rooms closures, the Konstantos family invested $11 thousand dollars in tempered glass barriers to ease trepidation surrounding winter indoor dining. The dividers, installed between all booths, are designed to offer patrons and staff members increased protection from COVID-19 and will be in the restaurant when indoor dining returns.
Desire for robust carry out sales remains high and stimulus money would give the restaurant hope as the move to carry-out only service forced staff layoffs. Now, Konstantos, his father George, brother Johnny and one cook make up the skeleton crew dedicated to getting food out the diner door.
“My dad is 72 years old. He did everything he was supposed to do,” said an emotional Konstantos. “He spent his life building this amazing business and I do not want to see it destroyed in front of him.”