MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – Many locally owned restaurants are feeling the pinch of having to close their dining rooms.
Most franchise food places in East Tennessee have drive-through service, while many locally-owned restaurants do not.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare visited a popular Morristown restaurant to see how it’s surviving by making changes to how they do things after 30 years in operation.
On Thursday, Hillbilly’s Cabin Restaurant and Catering began implementing its changes with meals ordered over the phone and meals served via take-out.
“It’s a big change,” customer Josh Hickman said. “It’s terrible to see the people not being able to work. This place at this time of day is usually packed to capacity. Food is just as good. Food is not going to change, I’m sure.”
Since the eatery was in its first day of fulltime take-out service, the menu consisted of mostly favorite dishes.
“We consolidated our menu,” Erik Engebresten, restaurant owner, said. “We are take-out only. We are not known as a take-out business, we don’t have drive-thru.”
Management was forced to close its second restaurant on South Cumberland in Morristown, they also had a catering contract with Walters State Community College, but their dining facility closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have 31 employees, we’ve had to let 27 of them go, unfortunately,” Engebresten said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring them back in the next couple of weeks. We’ve tried to do the best we can to keep things fresh and limit our choices. But our sales are down now 90 percent and it’s tough to survive that in the long haul.”
Their 10-ounce burgers are still available.
“I just hope they make it,” customer Chris House said. “It’s a struggle on everybody, that’s why I’m supporting them as much as I can.”
Customers are reminded politely that dining in is no longer allowed.