CHANDLER, AZ — A Valley restaurant CEO is stepping up in a big way to help his employees in these uncertain times surrounding self-isolation and COVID-19.
With so many restaurants now turning to take out and deliveries only, some have had to lay off staff or reduce their hours drastically.
Akshat Sethi, who owns Thai Chili 2 Go restaurants in the Valley said like others, he too worried about what tomorrow may bring for the restaurant industry.
"All I can say is this is pure confusion. We are all trying to navigate through this right now," said Sethi to ABC15 during a video chat.
Unlike other Valley restaurants, Sethi said he had not had to lay off any employees yet, but some were experiencing reduced hours. He called it uncharted territory in which they were living day by day.
In the last two weeks, as Arizona residents have been urged to self-isolate and quarantine, Sethi said business had declined by about 30 percent. To ensure customer and staff safety, Sethi said they had stepped up already vigilant safety and cleanliness standards inside his businesses.
Signs on the door read the store was no longer accepting cash.
"Cash is very dirty, and carries a lot of germs," said one Thai Chili 2 Go employee who requested anonymity.
The restaurants have also removed the dining tables and placed a few chairs out for customers waiting to pick up orders that have been called in or ordered online.
The employee who asked not to be identified told ABC15 along with safety, uncertainty was also on their minds.
"Of course there's a lot of nervous people. A lot of people questioning what's going to happen. Schedules, if they're going to have hours or if they're going to have work. Obviously the concern is paying the bills and survival right now," said the man.
To help those employees who may find themselves facing a hard time, Sethi decided to do his part and has now donated three months of his salary to create an employee relief fund.
"At this point, that's the least I can do comfortably. The staff is very dear to my heart. I may have to make tough decisions in the future. If there is anything we can do for our employees, we will be more than happy," said Sethi.
"I think for a long time we've been using the word mindful too casually. I think this is the best time to practice it," he added.
Sethi says he has also informed all his restaurant managers to let customers know, if they are elderly or at risk, they should call and let an employee know before picking up their order.
"They will bring the food to you in your car. You don't have to come out at all," said Sethi.
Thai Chili 2 Go is also offering a 20% discount for all online pickup orders right now. They're calling it their responsible online pickup option. The promo code is UNITY.
We're Open, Arizona: We know this is a tough time for a lot of people in our community, including local restaurants and businesses. As local spots continue to serve takeout, look for ways to safely do business, and give back to our community, we want to share their stories. Visit abc15.com/open or email us at OpenInAZ@abc15.com.