PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As restaurants move and expand, some renovation plans have COVID-19 in mind.
The pandemic has changed the way people go “out” to eat, with takeout and delivery taking up the lion’s share of dining out.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 70% of Americans are more likely to order takeout than pre-pandemic. 60% of Americans continue to order takeout at least once a week.
At the Smo-King Pit in Northwoods Mall, owner Micheal Citchens said he is expanding his restaurant to focus on counter service and takeout. Tables are spread six feet apart, and drinks are offered in mammoth sizes to limit customer contact.
“People come to the counter, place your order, and come to the dining room and pick up the order at the service window,” he said.
Citchens said when the pandemic initially shut everything down in March 2020, takeout orders skyrocketed.
“We were serving just as many people during COVID as we did before. That model became so efficient for us, so we just never opened our dining room back up even when the state opened up,” he said.
And when the restaurant closed in October for the renovation, he said an expanded kitchen was at the top of the list.
“With the bigger kitchen I can do way more than what I did before,” he said, adding he will be able to expand the catering side of the business too.
Chris Setti, CEO of Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said it’s a smart move.
“It’s probably good public health policy just to begin with. Those businesses that continue to be flexible and invest in the future, I think, are going to be the ones that are the most successful in weathering this storm,” he said.
Smo-King Pit re-opens on Monday, Jan. 17.