This week we’re checking in with Mat Glazier of GlazierWorks to see how Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue is handling the pandemic. The restaurant never fully shut down and has been offering takeout, delivery and, when permitted, indoor and outdoor dining on site since March. We spoke before the latest indoor dining restrictions in New York City were announced, but Matt was pretty sure indoor dining was not going to be allowed for much longer. Read on to learn how Morgan’s has adapted this year and why Matt has hope for the future. You can support Morgan’s by ordering takeout or delivery directly from the restaurant, visiting them in person or ordering their merch and gift cards. As told to Sarah Strong, this interview has been edited and condensed.
Currently, we’re open. We’re a small restaurant inside, so with social distancing we’re really down to three or four tables because of the layout of the restaurant. Indoor dining, while nice, hasn’t really had a huge impact for us. What we’ve been fortunate with is that we have a large outdoor dining area that we’ve tented and heated, but it’s gotten cold recently so it hasn’t been as busy as we would like or as it had been over the summer. The other thing is barbecue is well suited to delivery and takeout for a lot of reasons. The food keeps well through takeout and delivery, but also, it’s a comfort food and it’s not incredibly expensive. We’ve been holding our own. We’ve obviously had to make changes to the way we do business, but Morgan’s is doing okay in light of everything.
In my mind, March 13th is when everything changed in this world. The first thing to take care of was the safety stuff. We always wore gloves in the restaurant, but nobody ever wore masks in the restaurant, nobody ever used Purell 85,000 times. I remember going to the restaurant and I was paranoid everybody had it. I was washing my hands so many times! Delivery and takeout really picked up then, and we had to change our business model in a lot of ways. We’ve always had strong delivery and takeout sales, but it became our focus so we had to make some operational changes. When we didn’t have any tables we unfortunately had to make some cutbacks in staffing, but we were able to bring back anybody who wanted to come back in the summer and when indoor dining opened.
As time went along, we learned to roll with the punches. I was there the first day we were allowed outdoor dining. You have customers, you have gloves on, you have masks on, it was hot, you don’t want to touch your mask that’s falling down, the customer asks for napkins and you don’t know if you should change your gloves for the 30th time to get the napkins. At the end of the day I was just telling them where the napkins were so that I didn’t touch them. When it’s new, it’s new, and then you get used to it. It’s like everything else: you get used to it, you evolve.
Let’s just say, I’m a little nervous going into the winter. They say we may or may not lose indoor dining. I’m pretty confident that come next week we won’t have indoor dining. I don’t know why they hem and haw about it. If you look, every day is worse, so I don’t know what they think is going to happen. We’re going to be focused on outdoor dining and takeout again.
I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I also think the community and our regulars deserve a thank you. They’ve gone out of their way to support us. People realize that as part of a community if they want long term restaurants and options, in the short term they have to support. Not necessarily in a charitable way, we haven’t done a GoFundMe or anything, but I think that’s great for people who have, but support by giving people business and opportunities.
I’ve learned that barbecue is one of the better places to be during a pandemic. At one point we had 14 or 15 high end steakhouses and a 20,000 square foot banquet facility. My heart really goes out to people in catering because that’s just a non-starter. It’s not just the caterers, it’s the florists, it’s the djs, it’s the whole industry. But also, a high end steakhouse doesn’t translate well to delivery, so I’m very happy we’re making food that delivers well and is feel good food, too.
As far as support and information from authorities, part of me thinks they’re doing the best job they can. It’s not exactly easy. I don’t know how critical I can be, not because I’m not willing to be. In my mind, the virus is an individual responsibility type thing. In the restaurant, I can control the staff and cleaning protocols, but if a guest comes in and they’re not feeling well we take their temperature, but you don’t know what everybody’s been doing or how the guests are really feeling.
I don’t think that allowing restaurants to be fully open at this point would be prudent. Even though I think it would be better for Morgan’s, I don’t think it would be better for society. I just don’t know what they could be doing better. I think the government should financially support restaurants and work on finding solutions for landlords and rent. I think there are certain things that the government can do financially to support the industry but I’m not so sure what they could be doing in the actual restaurants to make them safer. It’s kind of like damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Overall, I’m very optimistic. We signed a lease and we’re building a very small Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn after Covid. It’s going to be like the years after prohibition. I think there’s going to be pent up demand. People are really going to really want to go out and enjoy other people’s company.
The bottom line is the restaurant industry has been hit hard. You’re dealt some cards, but it’s what you do with your hand. We were dealt a pretty good deck of cards because what I talked about with barbecue and stuff like that, but we adapted. We went very heavy on social media. We have somebody terrific who does our social media, and I contribute to that. I think our social media drives business and I think there are certain things people can do to make their situation better, that’s it. We’re in a terrible time, and hopefully it’s almost over.