Owner/Operator of two Jersey Shore restaurants, Mario Magriplis, discusses establishing a new business model to keep businesses afloat post-pandemic.
ALLENHURST, NJ: For nearly a month and a half, restaurants have served their customers from to-go containers, delivered food curbside or left orders on doorsteps in an effort to stay afloat due to the state-wide mandated shutdown of all essential businesses. While no expected date has been announced of when restaurants will be able to welcome customers to their dining rooms in New Jersey, restaurateurs are preparing for a much more restricted version of dining out. Mario Magriplis, owner and operator of successful Jersey Shore restaurants, Charley’s Ocean Grill in Long Branch and Blue Swan Diner in Oakhurst details the affects the pandemic has had on both his restaurants.
Owning both a luxury waterfront dining establishment and a full-service diner has shown vastly different challenges for Magriplis during the restaurant shutdown. “My philosophy is that every business in itself is different,” said Magriplis. “You need to adjust your strategy and your approach of each business according to what you have to work with.” For Magriplis, this meant temporarily closing his seaside restaurant. “Initially we tried to keep both restaurants open with take-out and delivery, currently only Blue Swan Diner is open,” said Magriplis. “Charley’s is not sustainable for the take-out business.” The diner’s convenient highway location and expansive menu enabled the proprietors to implement take-out, delivery, and grocery services for their customers.
The owners are taking advantage of any help they can get from the federal government’s stimulus programs, already receiving financial aid from the Small Business Association which is paying Magriplis’ SBA7a mortgage payments for six months beginning in May in Long Branch. “It’s a great service and a great help giving us time to recoup and gives us the opportunity to stay alive,” said Magriplis. “We’re making a lot of changes,” said Magriplis. “We’re the kind of operators that are always looking forward to change no matter how successful a business might be. We know nothing’s forever.”
One positive adjustment that frequent customers of the Blue Swan Diner are pleased to see is the availability of their homemade recipes for purchase. Homemade favorites such as dressings, sauces, gravy, coleslaw, marinara sauce, pancake batter, and the diner’s signature rice pudding and cheesecake have been added to the take-out menu allowing customers to recreate the full dining experience at home. “These are a lot of house recipes that people love and frequent our business to eat all the time,” said Magriplis. “For now, we’re doing it mostly to keep things going, keep people employed, accommodate our customers and give them some of the things they miss as well.”
While the lockdown has enabled restaurants to retool their concepts to better adhere to the new normal the industry will face in the future, Magriplis admits that no one knows what that new normal will look like. “Things are definitely going to change,” said Magriplis. From an operator’s perspective, the best thing we can do right now is just be flexible and as lean as possible until that day comes.” Magriplis also urges all restaurateurs to stick together during this difficult time. “We have to find a way to go forward and that might not be the way it was in the past,” said Magriplis. “Reach out to your neighbor that was once your competitor. We all need to help each other in any little way possible we can to get through this.” As for his customers, the message is clear. “We miss them,” said Magriplis. “That personal daily interaction is missing from all of us and I really hope we can get back there one day.”
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