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Crosby talks COVID-19 impact on Pal's and more

Tanner Cook • Apr 5, 2020 at 8:21 AM

The food service industry continues to soldier on during these uncertain times and local staple restaurant Pal’s Sudden Service has followed right in line.

Adam Crosby is the store operator of the Church Hill location and has been involved with Pal’s for more than a decade.

What is your role at Pal’s and how did you get started?

“I was kind of born into the Pal’s family and it was somewhat out of necessity. In my late college years, there was the economic crash of 2008 and some of my friends coming out of college were having trouble finding jobs. They were always saying, ‘We wish we could have had the opportunities you had coming out of college.’ I really didn’t realize it until I started, but there is a wealth of detail that is involved with Pal’s.

“I originally started in the Colonial Heights location and then helped open the Erwin location in 2013. I was there as the store operator until 2018 when I came to the Church Hill location.”

Any hobbies or interests outside of your job?

“I’ve always been a music guy since I was about 6 years old. My parents put me into piano lessons and I quickly learned that the piano was not for me. I always liked playing guitar and I prefer an electric one, but I can still play bass or something.”

What is the family life like?

“I’m married to my beautiful wife, April, and we have a 2-year-old daughter named Penelope.”

What is Pal’s all about?

“Our business model is mostly a drive-thru only food service that has 29 locations and over 1,300 employees. We average about 18 seconds per order and we measure that by the first wheel stop at the first window and the wheels go at the next window. We’re pretty efficient and our normal health inspections are very clean. We usually score in between 98 and 100 at every location.

“We’re the only small-business restaurant to win the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in 2001.”

What has Pal’s done to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak?

“It kind of worked out with our business concept of being drive-thru only, but we’re obviously concerned with the safety of our employees and customers. We’ve implemented temperature checks at the back door when employees come in, a five-question survey given out by local hospitals asking about the symptoms and we do a lot of sanitizing. When a store manager first comes in, they sanitize the entire working area and then employees sanitize the same areas every hour on the hour.

“We’ve also partnered with businesses like BioPure to come in and do more sanitation and the employees even have the option of doing a UVC light sanitizing of their belongings when they first come that takes about 10 minutes.”

How has the virus impacted sales?

“The biggest impacts that we’ve seen so far have been that there’s much less earlier in the morning and later at night. We’re actually seeing much busier lunch hours than usual, but across the board it’s been in a depression.

“Our walk-in locations in Kingsport, Greeneville and Johnson City have been impacted a lot, too. Since the Johnson City Mall completely shut down, our location in the food court did too. We offered jobs to our employees from that location in other around Johnson City and most of them took us up on that.”

How will the new restrictions by Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee and Va. Governor Ralph Northam impact Pal’s?

“I really don’t think there will be much of an impact. We’re an essential business and people have supported Pal’s throughout the region during the good times and now, we’re still going to be open during the bad times. The good thing is there have been no layoffs.”

How are the employees holding up?

“Our employees are holding up pretty well. Most of the people we hire are younger and around college age. They are concerned about getting the virus, but they’re more concerned about carrying it and passing it along to someone that they live with or some of our customers since a portion of our customers are in the older generation.

“We have given every employee that continues to work during this time a $2 bump in pay and we’re calling it ‘Hero Pay.’ ”

What is next at Pal’s for protecting your employees and customers?

“The next step is for all of our employees to start wearing masks, and that will start very soon. We’re all about protecting our employees and our customers during these times. One of the first things we implemented was sanitizing credit cards,  and people have complimented saying they didn’t even think of that.”

Who are some of the people you look up to the most?

“I’ve got two that really stand out to me since I started working for Pal’s. The first is Scott Davis, who operates the Colonial Heights location. That’s where I started out and he left a great impression on me, teaching all of the ins and outs of Pal’s and how to pay attention to detail.

“The second is my dad, Thom Crosby, who is the CEO of Pal’s. He’s one of those guys that really leans into the problem and faces it head-on. He’s a great problem solver and when the virus first broke out, he was out there trying to figure out how to confront the problem and overcome it.”

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