Family-run restaurants survive COVID-19 supported by Waco community

Xristo's Cafe sits empty on La Salle Avenue as the restaurant was forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor

By Madalyn Watson | Editor-in-Chief

While the COVID-19 outbreak had a devastating economic impact on small businesses, the support of the local community is helping vulnerable family-owned restaurants in Waco such as Xistro’s Cafe and Revival Eastside Eatery.

Sophia Garman is one of six siblings who help their parents run Xistro’s Cafe on 810 La Salle Avenue. After graduating from college, she moved back home to help manage the business.

“It was always a big ambition of my parents to be able to open their own restaurant one day, but they just never really thought it was a possibility,” Garman said.

The family-owned restaurant was established in 2013. Since then, Garman and her five siblings continue to be a part of Xistro’s Cafe.

“My siblings and I were all very involved,” Garman said. “We all made recipes. We learned how to do pretty much everything when we opened and we’ve worked in the business ever since.”

In response to the spread of the coronavirus, Xistro’s Cafe closed their dining room and shifted their focus to drive-thru and call-in orders. The Mediterranean restaurant also takes orders through third-party delivery services such as Favor, Postmates, Door Dash and Sic‘em Delivery.

“We’re very fortunate that Waco is pretty community-based,” Garman said.

With support of the local community, another family-owned restaurant, Revival Eastside Eatery on 704 Elm Avenue, hit its one year anniversary in July.

Danielle Young, the owner and manager of Revival, said the constant support of regular customers helped the restaurant reach this major milestone amid the changing restrictions caused by the pandemic.

“We had to completely close the dining room,” Young said. “We shifted from not doing any online orders to completely setting up an online system [so] that people could order and do curbside.”

In addition to selling items from its regular menu, Revival started selling larger, family-sized meals to help out their patrons when grocery stores had limited items in stock and to subsidize their business where they lost income.

“When COVID-19 first hit Waco and things were starting to close in March, the family meals kept us afloat,” Young said. “They honestly helped us tremendously in the first two to three months.”

These family meals varied from the items Revival normally offered including meatloaf with roasted potatoes and vegetables or a penne pasta loaded with chicken, vegetables and a flavorful sauce.

“If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll see every morning around nine we post a different meal and they’re always $30 and they’re always portioned to serve a family of four,” Young said.

Garman said her family noticed their customers ordering larger portions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Xistro’s Cafe started offering family to-go meals with serving sizes for six to eight people.

“Coming from a larger family, we would always have to order two meals of four whenever we were doing something like that,” Garman said. “So we wanted to be able to cater to people who might have people who eat larger portions like my brother or people who had bigger families.”

However, family-sized meals were not the only changes made at Xistro’s Cafe in order for the restaurant to remain in business and help the Waco community. One of these changes was through the Comfort Food Care Package program created by Gov. Greg Abbott’s Public Safety Office n partnership with Favor Delivery and the Texas Restaurant Association.

“We have seen an outpouring of support and the Comfort Food Care Package program has definitely helped make up for some of those losses that we were seeing in the first couple weeks of closing down our dining room,” Garman said.

Through the Comfort Food Care Package program, patrons can purchase care packages on the behalf of at-risk youths and families. Participating restaurants, like Xistro’s Cafe, offer these packages of food for a family of five-to-six people and have them delivered to these recipients’ homes.

“We heard about the Comfort Food Care Package program and decided to participate in that because it’s a really good cause, and that helped us a lot in terms of being able to continue to operate without having to take out a loan,” Garman said.

The package provided by Xistro’s Cafe for a donation of $70 consists of popular items from the restaurant’s menu: baked Parmesan chicken nuggets, orzo pasta, a salad and house-made bread.

“So many people from the community were so generous… and donated over 20 meals for families in the area,” Garman said.

The fact that Xistro’s Cafe is a close-knit, family-run business makes them vulnerable.

“All of our workers are like my siblings — we have two employees — but we’re all very close to the family and close to my grandmother,” Garman said. “So none of us want to compromise her.”

Although they do not have a specific date for when they plan to reopen their dining room, Garman said they hope to return to business as normal when their family feels it’s safe to do so.

Young said several patrons have committed to dining with Revival on a regular basis to support the restaurant during economic downturns and in return, Revival is committed to doing the same for its community.

“We tried to support other local businesses so we have started selling Heritage Creamery pints,” Young said. “We still have beer from a lot of local places like Balcones, Brotherwell and Waco Ale.”

As the social climate changes, Revival will continue to cater to its community. They will continue to serve the family-sized meals for as long as their customers are utilizing them.

“We’re going to keep that up and probably also do single meals as the college students transition back so that way they’re not committed to a full family meal,” Young said.

Even though aspects of small businesses will change in order to keep up with health code and restrictions, Young said that Revival will continue to have what makes it Revival: the caring community.

“We’re trying to find what the new normal is, so I think we’ve done a pretty good job of still engaging with customers,” Young said.

Revival is currently operating at 50% capacity. Young said they moved tables and chairs around so that everyone is six feet apart.

“We will survive and will be — in a way — better for it,” Young said.