BILLINGS — Amid the uncertainty that COVID-19 has caused the economy, Billings Tarantino's Pizzeria Owner Jay Frichtl said Sunday the lunch rush has disappeared but more customers are coming in at night.
Frichtl said lunchtime customers are "nonexistent at the moment. We definitely miss the lunch crowd, but we are making up in the evenings."
Frichtl said the usual lunch crowd is gone because there are less people at work to take lunch breaks. As well, kids at Billings Senior High School aren't in class to make the drive up Grand Avenue during lunch to grab a slice.
But business has been good enough that Fricthl didn't have to lay off any of his nine staff members.
"We haven’t had to lay anybody off, which is fantastic. What we do is with the extra evening business, we take a daytime person or two and put them on the evenings. We’ve got drivers running their tails off and working extra hours, which is great for us and good for them. It’s extra money," Fricthl said.
The weekends are generally the time when Fricthl sells the most pizza. He said before the COVID-19 pandemic, he would sell between 30 - 65 pizzas. On Friday, Tarantino's sold about 90 pizzas, Fricthl said.
The already existing delivery and drive through service at the pizzeria made it easier to orders from health officials, Fricthl said.
“Fortunately we’ve got the drive through window which really, really helps. And obviously delivery is key," Fricthl said.
Customers are no longer allowed inside the pizzeria but can still call in orders to pick up at the drive through window. Daily specials and other orders can also be made through the drive through.
Tarantino's is a Montana-based business that has three locations across the state. There are pizzerias in Bozeman, Missoula and a Billings location at 1102 Grand Ave. Frichtl encouraged people to support all their local businesses, because they need it right now.
“A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of places are open. If it’s your favorite place, drive by. At this point, most of us can’t afford to advertise like the big boys, so we don’t. We just count on the fact that you’ll drive by and see our sign as open," Fricthl said.
Throughout the uncertainty of the past few weeks, Fricthl said he's been seeing the same names come up on orders, and some unfamiliar ones providing new support.
“Throughout the whole thing so far, we’re seeing new ones that are coming in more and more. Hopefully we have gained a loyal customer after the whole ordeal," Fricthl said.
A small silver lining for Tarantino's is with customers no longer allowed inside, there is some time to spruce up the dining room with a fresh coat of paint.
"We definitely have a lot more time to deal with (remodeling) during the day. That’s what we’ve been doing all day. We’ve got one gal making pizza and sending them out. Then myself and another painting and putting a whole new look to it," Fricthl said.