As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges for small business owners, a group of Cal State Fullerton students lent a helping hand to a local mom and pop shop.
In a team composed of public relations majors, Anthony Amendola, Kristen Kraniger, Alysia Saquilabon, Nikita Petersen and Margarita Mariano, took on the challenge of garnering more traffic for The Hungry Bear, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.
The Hungry Bear, located on Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton, is a local restaurant that has remained at its current location since 1968.
After the first stay-at-home order was instated in mid-March, the business grappled with limited seating and reduced employee hours.
Before Southern California was issued another mandate that required restaurants to close in-door dining and allow only take-out or delivery again, The Hungry Bear would seat every other table in addition to outdoor dining for customers who felt uncomfortable eating indoors.
“It can make it pretty hard having to bounce around from inside to outside, but we’ve got a really good team,” said Monique Moore-Fournier, a server at The Hungry Bear.
Multiple measures have been instated, like masks, gloves and hand sanitizer stations in addition to a scannable QR code to provide customers with a digital menu.
Cortnee Kleidon, the manager of the Hungry Bear, said adapting to the new protocols was difficult, and because of the limited hours, it took her from a place she considered a second home.
“I’ve worked here for over seven years, so this has been my home away from home and my second family and so not being able to be here and interact with the family I’ve adopted through work has been very sad,” Kleidon said.
As part of the required Practical Advantage Communications capstone course, students are split into agency teams to develop and execute campaigns for real-world clients. In order for businesses to participate in the project, it must place its name on a waiting list. After a couple of dropouts, The Hungry Bear was up next.
"I don’t know what I expected walking into it, but I was pleasantly surprised, just by their enthusiasm and what they brought to the table as far as knowledge and skill base, and their determination and drive has been absolutely astounding," Kleidon said.
The restaurant has partnered with services like Grubhub and Uber Eats to promote contactless delivery.
The team also decided to start a community conversation on Reddit, where the restaurant would ask Fullerton and Orange County residents how they could improve.
“I turned it into like, we want to talk to our community and ask you guys what you think about our restaurant and what we’re doing and what we could do better, so it still advertised the business but it also got a lot of constructive feedback,” said Anthony Amendola, a team member.
Social media, coupled with promotions, has helped spark an uptick in customers. Amendola said the restaurant had not experienced a significant decrease in orders in comparison to the last time in-door dining had shut down. He also added that approximately 12-15 customers a day would use the discounts the team had conjured up.
The restaurant has also seen an increase in take-out orders, which Amendola mainly attributes to COVID-19 restrictions, the shortage of space the restaurant has for outdoor dining and the encroaching cold weather.
Kleidon said that the restaurant was having conversations on improvement based on the comments and responses they had received from the social media pages the team had constructed.
“When I think of this place I don’t necessarily think of a typical restaurant just because it does have that longevity and the clientele has been around for so long that they just become family,” Kleidon said.