Casper restaurants, bars and grocery stores are already planning to stock extras from beer and wine to linens and produce for the next few days leading up to Monday’s eclipse.
They’re also calling in their full staffing levels to make sure they can accommodate crowds and move customers through lines. While no one knows exactly how many visitors will descend on Casper, many estimates predict about 35,000 additional people.
Director of operations Mike Malmberg of Johnson Restaurant Group predicts the company’s five local restaurants and the others in town are in for a busy few days. But Casper has many dining options, he said.
“I don’t anticipate any of our restaurants or any other restaurants in town getting overwhelmed to the point where they run out of food or anything,” Malmberg said.
All hands on deck
Many restaurants have scheduled their full crews through the long weekend, including those at the Johnson Restaurant Group.
“We all know that it’s all hands on deck,” Malmberg said.
They plan on staffing as they would on a busy Saturday night, though the restaurants likely will be busier. Still, only so many customers can fit in at one time, he said. Part of the plan is a few more people working slightly shorter shifts to keep staff members fresh. Malmberg predicts some wait times, which means the workers will be busier longer. The restaurants take call-ahead seating, he added.
“We want to make sure, while we’re seeing new faces, that we’re staffed and have enough product that we’re keeping our loyal fan base happy as well,” Malmberg said. “I think that’s key. We want to make sure we can take care of everybody.”
Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana general manager Dana Packard is excited to serve even more customers than the restaurant’s opening drew last fall, with the crew now about twice as fast, she said. Temporary help and a few borrowed hands from Colorado branches will help, too. She’s also decided against special menu items or hosting events that could take extra time.
“I think if we can execute and make people happy and give people an enjoyable experience and do what we do best, that’s all I need to do,” Packard said.
Employees at The Office also look forward to what likely will be a nonstop few workdays near the center of the downtown activities, said Jim Kanelos, who owns the new bar and grill with his wife, Karen.
“All the servers and bartenders are excited, because they’re going to be making great tips,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to just stay busy the entire time and put some money away.”
Makenzie Rothfuss at Crescent Moon Coffee Stop will have her family business partners, employee and a temporary helper on hand.
She’s also planning a smaller menu featuring beverages she can prepare in advance, including cold brew coffee, tea, lemonade and Italian soda flavor mixes. She’ll try to avoid drinks that require blending, shaking or longer cleaning times, like sauces, which stick more than syrups, she said.
“I’m trying to get things done so we can actually clean things fast enough and get people going at the speed that they need to be,” Rothfuss said.
At the Horseshoe Bar & Grill, co-owner L’Oreal Podzimek said she’s preparing much the same way she did for Sturgis Rally crowds when she ran businesses in the Black Hills. The Horseshoe will offer food indoors and outside, with a limited menu including pulled pork, walking tacos, burgers and hot dogs, Podzimek said. The bar also is hosting parking lot parties with live music, karaoke, DJs, games, kids’ activities and comedian Bag Lady Sue entertaining that Saturday night.
Smith’s Food & Drug assistant manager Bruce John said everyone will be working that weekend, including managers, to move people through the grocery store as quickly as possible. They’re also considering longer hours, perhaps even staying open through the night, he said.
“We hope that people see that we’re friendly and helpful and that we’re prepared,” he said.
Business has increased in the past two weeks with locals planning to avoid the eclipse crowds.
“We’re starting to see it already,” John said.
Restaurants, bars and grocery stores are ordering extra food, and delivery trucks will roll through more often in the days around the eclipse.
Trucks will arrive at Smith’s daily, instead of every other day, John said. The store is ordering about four times as much water and sports drinks than normal, and Pepsi and beer vendors are on call.
Fresh produce may be the hardest to keep in stock, he said. But the store and its distributors are prepared to stock and restock daily as needed, he added.
The Johnson Restaurant Group restaurants are doubling their food orders, Malmberg said. A reserved refrigerated truck also will allow a little extra storage, he added. The local ice companies are on speed dial, in case the ice machines can’t keep up with the number of drinks, he added.
The Horseshoe has started stocking about four times the usual products, Podzimek said.
“It’s obviously going to get used,” Podzimek said. “It’s just costing us a lot to get stocked, but we don’t want to run out.”
Racca’s has already shelved extra beer, wine and liquor in the bar, and Packard plans triple orders for the most popular menu items, she said. She’s also planning ahead on other supplies.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Packard said “It’s the small things: how much money you get from the bank, how many linens I need, how many napkins I need, how many tablecloths I need. It’s just the small things you wouldn’t think of.”
The Office owners plan extra food and drink supplies, too, and its distributors will run daily, Kanelos said. He’s also fortunate that the nearby street won’t be one that’s closed for the downtown festival, so deliveries can gain easy access without having to schedule only in the early morning, he added.
“You fill your freezers and beer coolers up and hope for the best,” Kanelos said.
No one is certain how many guests will arrive, and some of the preparation is a guessing game, several managers said.
“It’s going to be super interesting and a lesson for everybody: Here, this is how we need to tell everyone how to get ready 100 years later,” Kanelos said.