By Rewon Shimray | Opinion Editor
Families like the Dietz’ have missed the experience of eating out together throughout the shelter-in-place order.
“Part of eating out is a morale boost,” Charis Dietz said.
Dietz, a freelance writer and editor, has lived in Waco since 2002 with her husband, a Waco native, and their 3-year-old daughter, Hope.
Dietz said Revival Eastside Eatery helped her family retain a sense of normalcy by providing an alternate way to eat out.
“We’ll pick up to-go from Revival and take it to the park and have a picnic — and then it still feels like we’re eating out,” Dietz said. “I love that Revival has still found ways to be as safe and healthy as possible, but creatively let us still have special experiences.“
Since the shelter-in-place order was enacted by Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver on March 23, local businesses scrambled to find new ways to adjust to the restrictions.
One of the changes Revival made was offering family meals for curbside pick up. Revival offers unique family meals Tuesday through Saturday that it announces on its Instagram (@revivaleastsideeatery) and Facebook page.
Dietz said the family dinners are making her life easier while “dealing with the stay-in-place order and having to juggle work at home with a toddler with schools closed.”
Revival owner and manager Danielle Young said she wanted to ensure the business changes she made would be feasible and attractive to Waco customers.
“The reason we figured family meals would be pretty successful is Waco is pretty community and family-oriented,” Young said. “We consider that Waco is different. It isn’t Dallas or Austin, so we think about what the people would want here.”
Young said she has been “super impressed” by the support received through the family meals. The family meals helped supplement the profit lost from having to shorten business hours and prohibit dining in.
“We’ve honestly been so impressed with the small businesses, because they’ve been hit the hardest but they’ve been so resilient and creative and sort of had to evolve and figure out different ways to deliver their food,” Dietz said.
Young said she worried whether her business was going to survive through the pandemic. The restaurant isn’t even a year old yet; it opened in July 2019.
Along with offering daily family meals, Revival also started offering online orders and transitioned to strictly curbside pick up orders. Beers are now available to go as well, served out of makeshift growlers made of mason jars. Thursdays continue to be Burger Day with a new specialty “funky” variation each week.
“We’re trying to keep people’s attention by still cooking beautiful, affordable, delicious food,” Young said.
Young said she has been able to keep all full-time employees at their original hours.
“We’re pretty committed to our employees,” Young said. “Thinking through, if we had to shut down, how would that go, it’d be really hard to open back up without keeping them full-time; And we want our staff to get paid, so we’ve been pretty fortunate.”
Young said businesses differ in how slow or busy they end up being, so she and her staff “just take it one day at a time.”
Starting on Friday, businesses will be able to host customers up to a 25% occupancy.
Even with the prospect of “returning to normal” soon, Young said she will continue some of the changes made during the shutdown.
“Online ordering has been great,” Young said. “We just need to think about what that may look like during our peak times. Once we get back to normal, will we be able to keep up with everything? I hope so.”
Young said Revival will continue to sell family meals to supplement profits until businesses are able to fully reopen.
”I really think the businesses that are able to adapt and be flexible and creative are going to be the ones to make it,” Young said. “I hope that that’s true.”
Dietz said her family hopes to eat at Revival again in the summer. She recalled the times Young brought customers watermelon while they waited on particularly hot days. Dietz said her daughter still talks about how she can’t wait for watermelon season to go to Revival.
“It’s those sweet kind of personal touches that makes you feel the food is prepared with such love, and that makes you love your town more when you have restaurants like that,” Dietz said.
Dietz said Revival, along with other mom-and-pop shops that treat customers with extra care, are “the soul of the town.”
“I think Waco really loves supporting local business and we’re so thankful that we’re one of the businesses that they’re choosing to support right now,” Young said.