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COVID-19 forced this iconic Atlanta restaurant to alter how they did business

Zane Major, Paschal’s Restaurant Operations Director, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and Reggie Wade to discuss new implementations the restaurant placed amid pandemic and struggles in obtaining PPP loans.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, let's turn now to what it's been like facing all of the challenges during the pandemic. We're joined now by Zane Major, Operations Director at the famed Atlanta restaurant Paschal's. And Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade is back with us now for this conversation.

So Zane, you know, Paschal's has had a long history and is no stranger to adversity. So where would 2020 and the pandemic really be on this scale compared to past struggles faced by the restaurant?

ZANE MAJOR: Well, you know, in terms of where we are as a nation and as the entire world is definitely a very unique challenge. Paschal's has a long history in being part of the Civil Rights movement and participating in those challenges and overcoming those struggles.

But this is definitely very unique, as it affects everyone, regardless of skin color, creed, religion. So it's been an interesting challenge for us. At times, it's been fun. And at times, it's definitely been challenging, for lack of a better term. But we're surviving through it, as we would in the past as well.

REGGIE WADE: Zane, Reggie Wade here. Have you explored the options of PPP loans? And if so, have you been successful? And what kind of process has it been trying to get assistance during these difficult times?

ZANE MAJOR: Yes, so we're really lucky that we are under an umbrella of a larger corporate company. So we have applied for both rounds of PPP. We're waiting for the second round. But we have been successful. There were some initial struggles in the ramp up with the first round. But we were able to find a financial institute to work with us at the restaurant.

REGGIE WADE: Being in Atlanta, I mean, it has such a rich history, especially in the restaurant business. How has it been differentiating yourself from all the other offerings that the city has to offer?

ZANE MAJOR: Yeah, very true. We have never in the past done a third party apps and delivery services. So quickly in March, we implemented two. And it just became clear that we were not set up to be successful in that model.

So we closed for about two months. And during that time, we really spent time operationally thinking about, how can we restructure this to be something that our customer base needs and make sure we're on the right platforms in the right way? So one of the main things that we did was dramatically reduce our menu offerings and lower our price point.

So we really wanted to just go back to our core menu offerings, which is our fried chicken, and a few of our other southern staples. And we also understand that we were in a global pandemic, and a lot of people are being affected financially by it, found a way to really reduce the price points of a lot of our offerings as well.

KRISTIN MYERS: So Zane, you're talking about some of the innovations that you guys had to do and had to make throughout the pandemic. Is there anything that you've done in 202 that's going to be sticking with you in 2021, 2022, and beyond?

ZANE MAJOR: Yeah, absolutely. Our original restaurant was about four blocks from here, about a mile from here. And really, it was based in gathering and bringing people together. So we have a lot of large private dining and event space in this facility that we haven't been able to use. And because of that, we never focused on to go or take out or any of those type of areas.

But we see those new channels as going to continue to stay. So we're going to continue to focus on how do we provide takeout and to go, how do we meet that customer need, because we do feel strongly that now that that has become a common place, it's going to remain, and it is a customer expectation. We're really looking forward to reopening our private dining.

But we were lucky that being in this large of a space-- we have over 6,000 square feet in this restaurant-- we actually did already have a built out takeout window, which in my history here, I don't know what it was used for. It was actually behind a cabinet, it and we discovered it, luckily. But we do see that as something that's going to continue to stay and just really continue to be nimble in that space is kind of what our big focus is moving forward.

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to return back to something that you were saying about the PPP loans. You said that you received the first one. You still haven't received the second. And we've heard a lot of Black owned businesses, small businesses, saying that they struggled throughout the entire loan process to be able to get funds from the federal government to help keep them afloat.

The Biden-Harris administration is making some changes to make things a little bit easier. What's your reaction to that? Have you heard from other folks at separate restaurants that were able to detail any kind of struggles or hurdles they faced in securing loans?

ZANE MAJOR: I have not. Like I said, our corporate umbrella covers almost 10,000 employees. So we did have some initial struggles with our standard financial institute to get PPP together. But in this round, we're really anticipating that we shouldn't have too many challenges. Now, we have not gotten final approval. But I do believe we submitted earlier this week.

REGGIE WADE: Zane, you keep hearing about the chicken sandwich wars. Popeye's, McDonald's, Wendy's, everybody has a new chicken sandwich. But I hear you guys are the best in Atlanta. Talk us up a little bit about that famous sandwich.

ZANE MAJOR: Yeah, so our sandwich is definitely different. It's a bone-in sandwich. And traditionally, it was served on white bread, so your Wonder Bread. So it's a bone-in sandwich. So you really actually needed a fork and knife to really dive into it and get after it. But it's our standard chicken breast. And it comes with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and then a special sauce that we kind of put on top of the bun. And it's simple, it's classic, it's delicious.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, thanks for leaving us on that hungry note at this lunchtime hour. Zane Major, Operations Director at the Atlanta restaurant Paschal's. Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade, thank you both for joining us.