Just like other full-service restaurants and buffet chains, which heavily depend on on-premise customers, sports bars experienced an overnight drop in sales during the pandemic. The Greene Turtle, a cult-favorite stopover for sports fans and happy hour groups across the Mid-Atlantic, was no exception.
The chain temporarily closed down the majority of their company-run locations last year and ended up with four that operated via off-premise only. It also had to downsize from nearly 700 to 30 employees. But the Green Turtle is once again on an upswing and even planning its first expansion since 2007.
The Maryland-based brand known as a beloved community hangout for patrons of all ages has now reopened all 16 of their company-run bars as well as another 21 which are run by franchisees. According to FSR Magazine, the chain is also planning on adding two new locations this year, the first new openings in over a decade.
"I think that is a nice place to be coming out of COVID," said CEO Geo Concepcion. "and I think it shows that all around the organization was, by the time we were in May, post-COVID, we were thinking about well, how can we grow this company coming out of this."
While it successfully shifted into off-premise sales by adding curbside pickup and fine-tuning its mobile app, the brand is now readying itself for what Concepcion believes will be a busy summer, with guests returning in droves to their locations across Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
But one thing may be different at Green Turtle's locations once they do—technology may replace some of the customer-facing workers, as restaurants still struggle with hiring back the staff they lost last year. Luckily, the chain has implemented several tech changes that could make running a short-staffed restaurant more viable. Customers will be able to use QR codes to order and pay from their tables without having to wait for servers, and the company plans on testing a "more traditional pay-at-table" option soon, Concepcion says.
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