How the Rockfish Grill Adapted to COVID-19

I was just sitting down to dinner at home Sunday, March 15th when a friend texted that the Governor had shut down the restaurant industry to control spread of Covid-19. We would be limited to take-out only, which has traditionally been a small fraction of our normal business. Just the day before, we’d held an all-hands meeting to discuss how we would be upping our game with new sanitation measures. Luckily in the restaurant business, we are all pretty well versed in this subject. In fact, the Rockfish Grill has consistently received the Gold Award from the Skagit Valley Health Department for zero violations.

The next day, we assembled our management team and pulled together an action plan. We crafted a statement to the staff, which went out via mass text and a statement to the public that was posted on social media that morning. Customers were encouraged to follow Facebook for daily updates. We simplified the menu and re-wrote all the schedules. New copy was prepared for our advertising outlets. The website was updated. The following day on March 17th, the whole thing was implemented. It was not a great St Patty’s Day, let me tell you.

Adapting to Phase-1 required almost daily refinement in what we were doing. We added family meal deals, curbside pickup, cocktails to go, implemented online ordering, offered 2-4-1 Anacortes Brewery beer cards with every to-go order, and ran through 2 and ½ years worth of cans in 6 months.

Being a music venue we’ve had to cancel 5-months worth of music. Every single one of the entertainers we reached out to has been understanding and supportive. Believe me, they are ready to play again, anywhere! We were lucky enough to secure a PPP loan and used it to bring staff back. With those funds, we were also able to bonus those individuals who worked straight through and were so instrumental in allowing us to continue operations at any level.

Finally, we were thrilled to open our dining room again on June 6th, and we welcomed back many of our great regulars that day for lunch! We’ve since added more outdoor seating and have found that to be a popular option. We discovered that people were not only ready to come back to our local restaurants here in Anacortes, many were specifically ready to come back to the Rockfish Grill!

So this is our 20th anniversary year, and the celebration has been a little muted, to say the least. You’d think after 20 years owning a restaurant, things would get easier! Our new normal includes mandatory facemasks for all staff, daily health screenings, and regular sanitizing of surfaces. But we are grateful to be able to welcome our dear customers back, and we feel blessed that we are still standing when others are not. You can bet that our 21st birthday party is gonna be epic!

Rick Star, Rockfish Grill & Anacortes Brewery
320 Commercial Ave Anacortes WA

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