IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) — A South Bay restaurant that has weathered coronavirus restrictions to stay open so far, says it’s now dealing with customers walking out on their bills.
Dawn Morgan, of IB Forum Sports Bar & Grill, said the restaurant recently started requiring customers dining in at their temporary patio to place a credit card on hold after a recent string of customers skipping out on their tab.
An issue made all the more disheartening after what they’ve gone through to keep their doors open.
“We had three occur last week. It has been a relatively small percentage based on the amount of customers we serve daily. But for us we're a small business, family-owned and have a strong issue with people stealing, in general,” Morgan wrote in an email.
Morgan said IB Forum was forced to layoff a large portion of staff when the pandemic first hit in March, giving out all of their perishable items to staff with the intention of being closed. But then take-out was cleared as an option by county health officials, allowing them to keep some staff.
But she added that even on a modified menu, some days felt like the last for the restaurant.
“Our push to remain open during some of the toughest days was the handful of employees who continued to come to work and a group of regulars who would call in orders, pick up high dollar gift cards or leave extremely generous tips to help support us,” says Morgan. “We couldn’t have done it without these great people.”
When restaurants were cleared for modified indoor dining in May, the restaurant scrambled to get staff back. Many former employees chose not to return for various reasons.
“Some of which included the fear of contracting the virus, the additional $600 a week for unemployment, we couldn’t blame them for not wanting to return,” she said. “We were very lucky to find a new group of employees that have meshed very well with our pre-COVID-19 staff.”
With the state again modifying orders to outdoor operations only in July, what appeared to be another blow for IB Forum ended up playing to one of its strengths.
“We have been very fortunate we are capable of providing several different outdoor seating arrangements,” says Morgan. “Several years ago, we added an outdoor patio on the parking lot side of the building and had just completed a new front patio just prior to COVID-19.”
Morgan said the increase in “dine and dashing” is recent, but since early July they’ve lost $500 in sales from eight tables. Not only a loss in sales but a loss in tips to staff working to make ends meet during the pandemic.
“We have worked hard to be in the position we are in, our employees work incredibly hard and it’s disappointing for them to have to call us and report a walkout. Not only are they losing a tip but they also feel responsible for someone else’s poor judgment,” Morgan said.
She says the majority of customers haven’t minded the new policy and customers can still pay in cash at the end of their meal. Servers also have been given discretion for patio tables not located in the temporary parking lot seating.
“Our biggest takeaways from this whole experience is to continue to be flexible and thankful to be open and thriving," she said. "Throughout all this madness we’ve had such a dedicated staff. It amazes us how well they’ve adapted to constantly changing schedules, changing health orders, wearing face masks, they have been very diligent in reminding customers to also wear their masks and the additional physical footsteps involved in providing outdoor dining in the parking lot."