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Gates Bar-B-Q credits local community for support amid the pandemic

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Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and Reggie Wade, along with George Gates, COO of Gates Bar-B-Q, discuss the pandemic’s impact on the Kansas City restaurant chain.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Let's talk now about what it's like to operate a restaurant during the pandemic. Let's bring on George Gates, COO of Gates Barbecue, and Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade to chat about being a Black restaurant owner during this pandemic.

So George, your company has been around for 75 years. And I'm sure that the company has seen rough times before in that long history. How would you classify this pandemic, given that context of that long history that you guys have?

GEORGE GATES: Are you trying to measure from one to 10, or how is this going to be measured?

KRISTIN MYERS: Can you even put it on a scale of one to 10? Where would it be on that scale?

GEORGE GATES: Well, this pandemic is a little different than the other challenges we had in the past. But again, we have three basic things that we stay with. And that's the product, the service, and the facility. And with restaurants, if you have those three basics in place, you normally can just outrun the rest of the challenges that you have. But we have had challenges.

REGGIE WADE: George, Reggie Wade here. I could see over your shoulder that the community looks like it's supporting Gates. What has it meant during this pandemic for the community to come out to support you?

GEORGE GATES: Oh, man, it's been wonderful. The community, the city itself has been great. There's been a lot of excitement in Kansas City just because of the Kansas City Chiefs, which brings people out. And when people are out, they feel better. When they feel better, they buy more. And so we've been recipients of those things that happened throughout the city.

The community itself for the last 75 years has been supporting us through the good times, the bad times, the fat times, and the lean times. As you see behind me, we have people here now. And it's 25 degrees. And we have people out eating lunch. And we appreciate that. And we're thankful for that.

REGGIE WADE: George, a number of restaurants have applied for PPP loans. Has Gates applied for any of these loans or any other state or local assistance during this time?

GEORGE GATES: We have applied for help and assistance to get over the rough times.

REGGIE WADE: And what was that process like? Was it an arduous process? Was it quick and easy?

GEORGE GATES: It wasn't as difficult as a lot of processes have been in the past. We have good people working with us in the financial field and with our banks and our lenders and our accountants. So with all those people in line to help us, it was a pretty simple process to motor our way through that mess.

KRISTIN MYERS: George, we've been talking a lot to a lot of Black business owners throughout this Black History Month. And even here at Yahoo Finance, we like to talk about this throughout the year, highlighting sometimes some of the hurdles and the difficulties that face Black business owners in particular. And as I was telling our last business owner a little bit earlier in the show, I would like to change that narrative and not talk so much about the struggles, although we do know that they exist. But I would love to know how you view being a Black man really an asset as you've built Gates into the company that it is now, five locations around the Kansas City area.

GEORGE GATES: Yes. And you have to realize it's been 75 years. I'm the third generation. I have nieces and nephews and daughters and sons that are in the business. That's the fourth generation. I have a grandson who's working in the business now. And that's the fifth generation. So we've been doing this struggle for a long time. And it has been good to us.

We have been able to eat every day, pay our bills. So we're happy about those things that happen from being in this business. But working in the community and being a part of the community, I think, is a great advantage. People tend to-- when they say barbecue in Kansas City, normally they say, I'm going to Gates. And we know that's barbecue. And so those things, over 75 years of our work and community involvement, this came to be what it is.

And it's a struggle. Yes, it is. It's a struggle for everybody. But I think because of the fact that we've been a staple in the community for so long and been steady, that people tend to gravitate to us because they know we're going to be here.

REGGIE WADE: George, I have to ask, what's on the menu today? I was looking a little bit online. And it all looks so good. So what we got today?

GEORGE GATES: Our menu is pretty set. We have a set menu. We're a specialty house. We barbecue everything. But we've barbecued lamb. We've barbecued chicken. We've barbecued beef. Whatever meat there is, we barbecue it. We don't cook it. We don't smoke it. We barbecue it. And that's what we do.

So today, we have the same menu that we have almost every day. In the five locations, we have different items that may be special to that store. In the downtown area we have a location at 12th and Brooklyn. We have chilli. We have a Georgie Burger. It's not named after me. It's named after my grandfather who passed away in 1960. He was the generation. He's the one that initiated all of this. But we have the Georgie Burger. We have other specialty items.

But on the menu, our signature item is a pork spare rib, natural drop. It's hard to find those anywhere because most people use the baby back or the St. Louis cut. We give a natural drop pork spare rib.

KRISTIN MYERS: Thanks a lot for that question, Reggie, because now I'm hungry. George has been talking through the menu. And now I want to eat. I'm hungry. And now, listening to that, I want to go get some barbecue. I've had some in St. Louis. And I was told at the time that I needed to go to Kansas City if I wanted to get some good Missouri barbecue. So next time I'm in Kansas City, I'll definitely have to drop by. George Gates, COO of Gates Barbecue, Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade, thank you both for joining us for this conversation.