NATALIA PEREZ, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
As Chattanooga area businesses shift, pivot and change, trying to adapt to a new normal, many are tapping into the passion that led them to open their business in the first place. Over the course of the next number of weeks, we'll profile some of these owners and share their inspirational stories on how they are doing it.
Recently, we chatted with Jonathan Armstrong, Regional Sales and Marketing Director for Dynamic Group, the management company that runs Rodizio Grill, about how Rodizio has navigated this year.
In what ways have your business and employees been impacted by COVID-19?
While so many individuals and businesses have been burdened by COVID-19, the restaurant industry as a whole has been completely decimated. As an industry with such slim margins, the capacity reduction, distancing attributes and overall reluctance of people to frequent them has had a profound impact on restaurants. Our staff have adapted to a massive reduction in tipping wages, in addition to their total hours decreasing, which I believe has affected other businesses and the housing market.
How have you had to shift and adjust?
Initially we turned our downtown Rodizio Grill into a Pop-Up Butcher shop to help provide meat and produce for our community during a time where the retail market was seeing a shortage. As time passed, we bought, bottled and sold hand sanitizer using all local ingredients and products to help support our local businesses and keep essential employees employed. Our downtown Rodizio team donated to first responders, to thank the brave men and women on the front lines battling the pandemic. Our final step before reopening was achieving a Certificate of Sanitation from a local firm that specializes in restaurant safety.
How has your community been helpful during this time?
I think small groups, like the Chamber, working closely together with the community, had the biggest impact in terms of help. I also believe the community stepped up and purchased from Chattanooga restaurants in a manner that may have been more challenging for other cities. Our downtown Rodizio Grill team attributes this to the size, culture and community atmosphere Chattanooga has been so successful in creating.
What role has your business played in your community?
We feel very fortunate to have a blue-collar team that worked together to brainstorm and develop systems and procedures to re-open and bring back some normality while maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our guests and staff. Rodizio Grill Downtown will always be recognized as being a celebration destination, and we believe the community wants to start celebrating friends and family again. We will continue to adapt and provide an amazing and safe experience for these celebrations.
What experience are you intentional about providing for your customers, especially now?
I think a lot of people who are going out want one of two things. They want their experience to feel safe and know that their dining destination is doing everything they can for them. I also believe people want things to feel normal again and optimistic about the future. Rodizio Downtown Chattanooga is ready to create those feelings and share in that optimism.
What's the most important thing you've learned during this time?
Teamwork and trusting each other. While our restaurant monitors our staff and guests' temperatures and asks them about their symptoms, we have been fortunate to have a very healthy team, and I think that's a commitment to each other that has not gone unnoticed.
What advice would you give to other business owners currently trying to rebuild?
Be adaptable. Just because it's normally done one way, doesn't mean it can't be tweaked to improve with the times.
How would you describe the culture at Rodizio's?
At its core it has to be a celebration and has to be fun. We provide joy and dining options that are abundant and unlimited. At our core we are set up to ensure everybody leaves completely satisfied and full.
Despite everything, what are you most thankful for regarding your business?
We are proud to have been able to weather the storm. We have created new downtown relationships and are continuing to build new and future partnerships because we feel we have all worked together to overcome an obstacle of monumental heights. We hope to connect with other business leaders and continue to be a place where people come to meet and celebrate.
About Rodizio Grill
Rodizio Grill is the first authentic Brazilian steakhouse or Churrascaria in the United States, established in 1995 by Ivan Utrera. Working alongside his mother, Carmen, a former culinary teacher in Brazil, Utera gathered cherished family recipes while also developing his own. Today, these are the creations for which Rodizio Grill has become known. From mouthwatering rotisserie-grilled meats and unique salads, to exquisite homemade desserts Rodizio Grill stays true to authentic Brazilian cuisine. Rodizio's is an award-winning restaurant featured in national media, including USA Today, The Washington Post, CBS and NBC News.