Art by Samantha Miller
Small business operations have changed in the food industry since COVID-19. The pandemic closed restaurants, cafes and bakeries, and even though these businesses are now permitted to open, they still must adhere to regulations.
In Los Angeles County, indoor dining is still not permitted because the risk of contracting the virus is higher in indoor spaces.
On Aug. 28, California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a Blueprint for a Safer Economy that outlines a color-coded system for California counties to follow. Restaurants in Tier 1 counties can only offer outdoor dining, whereas those in Tier 4 counties can offer limited indoor dining at 50% capacity, according to an article in Eater.
Small businesses are important because they form the backbone of many communities and bring people together, according to an article in McKinsey & Company. COVID-19 continues to hurt the economy with businesses only being able to operate at a certain capacity or having to be completely closed.
Despite the risks, new businesses have opened during COVID-19. One small business was especially successful after focusing its operations on delivering straight to customers’ doorsteps.
Little House Confections, which Liz Roth created in April, first offered at-home deliveries for its internet-famous olive oil cake. A couple months later, Roth moved into a pop-up shop in Culver City. When she first started, she used the proceeds of her business to donate to the Covenant House of California. Now, a portion of the profits is donated to a new charity each month.
Junior Chase Johnson said he heard about Little House Confections from a fellow Pepperdine student who recommended that he work there. Johnson and other employees started working as delivery drivers and customer service agents and now work at the pop-up shop as well.
“[Working at Little House Confections] just sounded like a dream,” Johnson said.
The bakery continued to grow as celebrities such as the Kardashians — who promoted the business on their social media accounts — fell in love with its specialty cake called the Bomb Ass Olive Oil Cake. Poosh, Kourtney Kardashian’s lifestyle blog, even collaborated with Little House Confections.
Johnson said Little House Confections was able to succeed as a new business during COVID-19 because it didn’t start as a brick-and-mortar store, instead utilizing the surge in delivery services.
“It’s just grown right before our eyes, which is really cool,” Johnson said.
Pepperdine students have also had a taste of inspiration during the quarantine and created their own start-up businesses from the comfort of their homes.
Junior Natalia Escobedo said she and her older sister noticed a gap in the market for healthy snacks that actually taste good. Since they are of Mexican descent, they also wanted to find snacks that were similar to what they ate growing up.
Escobedo said they found the perfect wholesaler in Mexico City that fit their brand, and after falling in love with their snacks, Delixias was born.
“We started out small, [selling to] friends and family, and then we started branching out to our community,” Escobedo said. “[There was] kind of a boom when a local blogger reposted a purchase from us. From that moment on, we were drowning in orders.”
One of the most popular snacks from Delixias is a traditional Mexican wafer-cookie called obleas, which comes in flavors like chocolate, matcha and strawberry. The wafers are gluten-free, vegan and kosher.
Delixias offers shipping throughout the United States as well as contactless delivery for those who request a local drop-off in San Diego. Customers primarily make purchases on the brand’s Instagram page through direct messages or on its website.
“Since it’s just the two of us, we’ve taken up literally every role in a business,” Esobedo said. “Photographers, business administration, managing the numbers [and] talking to distributors in Mexico City.”
Esobedo said because of COVID-19, she is very careful about handling her products and uses gloves when packaging orders so there is no direct contact with the food packaging. She wants to expand her business further into the community but remains aware of COVID-19.
“We wanted to start getting involved in farmers’ markets, [but] with COVID, […] we still don’t feel 100% comfortable going out there,” Escobedo said. “We’d rather just wait it out a little bit.”
Local Malibu businesses have had to adjust their daily operations as well but are continuing to stay strong during tough times.
Pepperdine alumnus Luke Vorster, an associate at SunLife Organics in Malibu, said operations had to close at the beginning of the pandemic. Now with new Los Angeles County guidelines, business has almost returned to normal but with a few adjustments.
“We have plexiglass and masks and everything, but [SunLife Organics] is still really functioning well as a business,” Vorster said.
Vorster said associates are screened every day at work to ensure they do not have symptoms. Additionally, dining-in is no longer an option for customers.
Even though the traditional dining experience is on hold for now, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped students or local businesses from being successful during a difficult time. For now, students are eager to dine-in at their favorite restaurants even though it will require patience as Los Angeles county, under Newsom’s new guidelines, remains in Tier 1.
Contact Sofia Longo via Twitter: @sofialongo_ or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org