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Business Observer Wednesday, Apr. 1, 2020 2 months ago

Pizzeria owner adapts to changing conditions in the face of the coronavirus — toilet paper included

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In a true sign of the times, Solorzano’s Pizzerias is giving away a free roll of toilet paper to customers who place an order over $30.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Restaurants around the country are hurting in the wake of coronavirus-related closings. Some have adapted quickly by adding new ways for customers to enjoy their food through pickup and delivery. Others were already uniquely prepared to shift to a fully takeout model, among them pizzerias. 

Philip Solorzano owns six Solorzano’s Pizzerias locations in the Sarasota area at Gulf Gate, Siesta Key, Venice Island, Longboat Key, North Port and Anna Maria Island. (Carlos Solorzano, his brother, owns Solorzano Bros. Old-Fashioned Pizza at Webber Street and Beneva Road.)

Philip Solorzano says this time of year is usually the busy season for his restaurants. “We’re not doing the same numbers we were doing last year,” he says, given the pandemic. “Are we doing better than other restaurants that had to close and had to change into doing what we normally do? Of course we’re doing much more than them.”

One advantage? Solorzano says 85% of his business is takeout and delivery anyway, so going to 100% isn't too hard. Although the Siesta Key location, with the closed beaches, is down a bit, locations doing especially well are Longboat Key and North Port. “People are starting to get used to this lifestyle,” he says.

Solorzano is resolute — he doesn’t want to close his doors like some restaurants have done. “That’s not the way you do it,” he says. “You have to adjust. You have to adapt.” The key, he says, is following guidelines from governments and health agencies. “If they tell us we can only deliver, we only deliver,” he says. “If they tell us we have to sell tacos, we sell tacos.”

That adapt-or-die mindset has given Solorzano’s a clear advantage. When he saw what was happening in California, he stocked up on supplies, including pizza ingredients, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. He’s even giving away a free roll of toilet paper to customers who place an order over $30.

Although many restaurants have laid off employees, Solorzano recently posted on Facebook telling people if they need to make extra money, they can make deliveries for Solorzano’s. One woman has already taken him up on the offer. Solorzano isn’t paying himself during the crisis, but that’s not as important to him. “Our employees are getting paid,” he says. “As long as I keep the doors open and pay employees, I’m a happy guy.”

Despite the hard blow the industry has been dealt, Solorzano remains steadfast. “The restaurant business is the hardest business in the world, and it just got harder,” he says. “The strong will survive. We’re going to get by. We’re from Jersey. We’re going to keep going.”

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