Local Restaurants Adapt to COVID-19

Stevenson-favorites, Culver’s and Egg Harbor, adapt to pandemic, continue operations

Victoria Feng and Sophia Ismail


Midwestern favorite Culver’s has long been a favorite hangout for Stevenson students and a popular choice for fundraisers. While it’s unlikely that customers can get their Butter Burger or cheese curds fix inside the restaurant any time soon, Culver’s is still open for drive-through and curbside pickup. 

Culver’s, like many other franchises, has shifted to takeout options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Culver’s Buffalo Grove franchise owner Kevin Weasler estimates that before the pandemic, drive-through accounted for less than 50 percent of business, but now is over 90 percent of business with the rest being curbside pickup.

“Business is down overall,” Weasler said. ” But we are fortunate, to be honest as a lot of restaurants aren’t open or they don’t have a drive through.”

Inside the restaurant, extensive precautions have also been put into place past just what CDC guidelines have prescribed. Employees wear masks and gloves all day. Those that are handling curbside pickup orders, such as Andrew Lukz ’20, also wear face shields over a mask to add another layer of protection when interacting with customers. When employees wash their hands, they now do so with their gloves on.

 “The rules that our bosses have for us as employees are made abundantly clear and I don’t think it’s ever been very confusing,” Lukz said. “The management is what really helped us transition.”

Even when social distancing restrictions are lifted, Weasler believes that drive-through orders will still account for a large percentage of Culver’s business because it’s a safer method. He added this pandemic has been their first time trying the curbside pickup method.

During this difficult time, Weasler is appreciative of the community support by the village of Lincolnshire and Stevenson.

“Lincolnshire is a great community and we’re getting lots of people coming through that say they want to support us on this,” Weasler said. That’s very nice.”

Egg Harbor

Most mornings, Egg Harbor Cafe would be bustling with activity. However, like most of the country, Lincolnshire’s Egg Harbor has closed its doors for sit-in dining due to COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to replicate the smell of pancakes, walls adorned with egg themed decorations, or the warmth of drinking hot chocolate from a ceramic mug, but the restaurant is getting by and continuing to serve food to the community through take-out and delivery.

Given its proximity to families in the Stevenson community, many students see Egg Harbor as a Lincolnshire dining staple. While the shelter in place order was in effect, the restaurant went to great lengths to maintain connections with its customers and employees.

Egg Harbor’s Lincolnshire location stopped seating guests after Governor Pritzker’s order to close all restaurants for sit-in dining on March 16th. Although the restaurant continued to serve its food through take-out and delivery, it made extreme changes to the way it operates. According to Store Manager Megan Crowley and Service Manager Alec Jones, the restaurant  only worked with four to five employees per shift, instead of the usual ten to fifteen or more. 

“Egg Harbor prides itself on choosing the right people to do the job, and this has been the biggest test and proof of that fact,” Crowley and Jones said. “However, it simultaneously makes us miss and appreciate our furloughed hosts, servers, cooks, bussers, etc. that much more.”

Struggles with the new changes are felt by former guests too. Some people are fearful of catching COVID-19 from delivered meals and are avoiding ordering food altogether. Others may not be able to afford delivery fees or pick up their orders themselves, while even more people may have difficulties ordering online. 

Rachel Lieberman ‘22 frequently ate at Egg Harbor before the shelter in place order. Quarantine has changed up routines and social occasions centered around eating at restaurants, but she is just as enthusiastic about Egg Harbor as ever.

“I’ve always loved Egg Harbor! We haven’t ordered in from there during quarantine but maybe we can soon,” Lieberman said. “I usually make something at home for breakfast but I love eating breakfast at Egg Harbor since it’s so good!”

Still, the Egg Harbor staff is trying to make the experience as easy on their customers as possible while still staying safe. Crowley and Jones described how they take extra care when preparing the food of someone at high risk from COVID-19 and how in the past they’ve set up a socially distant seating arrangement in the parking lot in order to have a guest eat a meal with their parents for the first time in weeks. 

Even for the customer ordering take-out, the Egg Harbor staff says they’re trying to be a friendly voice on the phone, keeping up their promise to good service. The efforts don’t go unnoticed by regulars of the restaurant, who have used virtual communication to express both gratitude, and understanding when things aren’t going as smoothly.

“It’s been especially encouraging that so many of our guests have been returning the positivity with posts on social media, generous tips, repeat business, and so many pleasant interactions,” Crowley and Jones said. 

The restaurant’s continued service is important not only to customers, but also to employees too. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate in the country was 10.2 percent for the month of July, compared to a 3.6 percent unemployment rate in January of this year.

With businesses having to furlough some or even all of their staff as they close, millions of people have been left without an income. Egg Harbor is no exception to the difficult circumstances that businesses are facing, but the management says that maintaining hope that all of the staff can come back after quarantine is one of the main reasons for staying open.

“As a company, we’ve emphasized helping out our employees in that specific predicament by providing extra shifts when possible and at least guaranteeing that they have a meal when they need it,” Crowley and Jones said. “Truthfully, there are a lot of fixed expenses that haven’t changed, but we’re only bringing in a fraction of our normal sales. Staying open helps us tackle those expenses so we can welcome everyone back when the time comes.”

Both restaurant managers and students agree that part of what makes restaurants special is the community experience. For some students, the interactions between servers and diners, long conversations over a meal, and the general liveliness of a restaurant shape how they think of eating out.

Although some of this can be replicated through ordering take-out and eating with family at home, Lieberman still thinks that aspects are lost, such as the experience of being in the same room as others, even if they’re strangers. Egg Harbor is only one among thousands of restaurants currently closed in America, and those who like the experience of eating at a restaurant are still wanting the experience of eating out.

“I miss going out to eat a lot!” Lieberman said. “ I miss sitting down in restaurants and being around others.”