BILLINGS — With no more state capacity restrictions or limitations on operating hours, managers at the Billings restaurants The Vig Alehouse and Casino and Buffalo Wild Wings said Saturday staff are excited for the Super Bowl, the first major event since COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in January.
"It's nice that all of these restrictions are lifted and we're not having to limit tables to 6 anymore. It definitely keeps us busy and keeps us happy," said Carissa Mcdaid, manager and server at the Vig in the Billings Heights.
Mcdaid had been a manager for about four months. She took the position after the Vig opened back up for dine-in service. The restaurant was closed for about two months from March to the start of May 2020 due to the pandemic.
Mcdaid said regular customers helped the business stay afloat through take out orders during the pandemic and business has been about on par with previous years.
“We’ve actually been pretty comparable with the last few years, which is really nice. We have a great customer base. Quite a few regulars that still have been with us through this entire time which has really helped kind of keep us afloat and keep us doing well through this whole thing," Mcdaid said.
With a rush predicted for the super bowl, Mcdaid said the Vig will have more staff on duty for the big game. Mcdaid said patrons are still required to wear masks inside until they get to their table, but all of the Vig's 20 tables are expected to be full.
"We do have extra servers, so we will have an extra hand to make sure that we are giving our best service possible during these days. They also will be coming in and out early tomorrow to make sure we prep, everything is clean, masks are out, everything is sanitized and ready to go," Mcdaid said.
The Vig already had take-out ordering in place before the pandemic, but take-out business picked up when everyone was sheltered in place during 2020. Mcdaid said take-out business is still "sky high" and staff have gotten better at managing those orders at the same time the restaurant is packed with customers.
“We have such a small kitchen that when we are at capacity in the restaurant, it’s really hard to make sure that we’re getting (take-out orders) out as well. We’ve had to in the past kind of tell those people we’re not able to do them. I think that’s something that we’ve really gotten better at over time through this last year," Mcdaid said.
Staff are similarly excited for the Super Bowl across town on the West End at Buffalo Wild Wings. Montana Area Buffalo Wild Wings Manager Darek Anderson said the Super Bowl is, "our biggest day of the year."
“We’re still expecting a big crowd in our restaurant. We’re hoping the weather doesn’t slow us down, but with this match up I think a lot of people are wanting to see it on our big screens," Anderson said.
Anderson said Buffalo Wild Wings staff love to work the Super Bowl so much that people usually request to work it rather than take the day off. The lack of capacity and operating hour limitations is good news for staff, Anderson said.
"It's definitely a weight off of our shoulders. We've always been prepared for everything. We've always followed the CDC guidelines and with a little bit of opening, our staff is becoming a little less anxious and more prepared and ready to rock and roll like normal," Anderson said.
Similar to the Vig, patrons at Buffalo Wild Wings are still required to wear a mask while in the restaurant until they are seated. Anderson said he expects about 200 people to come in to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday with no restricted capacity.
“We’re following the six feet rule and making sure that we’re cleaning our tables with sanitizer and (using) the COVID pillar, as we like to call it, and making sure staff and guests are always safe," Anderson said.
Buffalo Wild Wings also offered a take-out service prior to the start of the pandemic. As more people have been coming to dine-in, take out orders have returned to a pre-pandemic level, Anderson said. But the take-out cashiers should get a lot of work tomorrow. Anderson said staff are preparing to serve more take-out orders than in-house.
"We are staffed up to the max and everyone is excited and prepared. It’s everyone’s favorite day to work. Luckily, we are prepared on our take out, because we’re feeling that’s going to be the heavier part, but it’s a game day experience in here and it’s a lot of fun," Anderson said.
The staff at Buffalo Wild Wings usually prep 8,000 wings in advance of the Super Bowl, Anderson said.
While area restaurants prepare for the Big game, the Centers For Disease Control recommends the safest way to watch the Super Bowl this year is from home. If people do choose to go out, the CDC says to wear a mask, try to keep six feet of distance from other people, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces and wash your hands frequently.