Q&A with a San Clemente restaurant owner, when many businesses struggle to stay open due to the pandemic

Antoine’s Cafe/Courtesy

Antoine’s Cafe has been a staple of the San Clemente Community since 1991. Their breakfast has been an Instagram story trend for years, along with their unique coffees and French twist on American cuisine. A lot has changed at Antoine’s since the shut down. Antoine’s has lost the experience of dining-in and has seen a decrease in sales, much like any other small business around town. Veronique Price, owner of Antoine’s, spoke of the importance of sticking together as a community to get through this challenging time that is quarantine. 

“I’ve been here for 30 years, this is not a time to take advantage, this is a time to be nice and stick together,” said Price.

How has your restaurant been since the change from dine-in to only takeout orders?

“We went from full service to just takeout. The beginning was really tough. Now customers know we are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. We stay consistent and we have a full menu available, it is getting better. We are now working in a totally different way than before, but we have to adapt.”

I saw that you started serving dinner plates. That is something known since you only served breakfast and lunch before, right?

“Yes, we make a small batch. I hired a chef that used to work at the Ritz Carlton because he is out of work since the pandemic. We are packaging homemade cooked meals with generous portions that feed two people for $30.” 

With the quarantine and the rise in delivery services have you started using Doordash or any other delivery services?

“No, no one really asks us for delivery at all. I think everyone actually likes to get out of the house and come to the restaurant to pick up since quarantine has left us all at home. If people are concerned about their health and do not want to come inside to pick up, we offer curbside pickup.”

What changes have you had to make health-wise to appeal to the new “normal” during quarantine?

“We sanitize the restaurant like always, wear gloves, wash our hands constantly and are very careful to social distance since we usually only have one customer at a time.”

How has your staff changed since business is lower than before?

“We have two cooks and the one for dinners, my husband, son and I as of right now. Our servers and other staff members are on unemployment because it is so slow we can’t afford to have them on and they don’t want to because they are making more on unemployment anyways.”

What other changes have you made?

“My husband and I just keep doing what we are doing. We started doing more social media than we used to. We are trying new things everyday. You have to reinvent yourself.”

When do you think you will reopen like normal?

“I am not opening up for full service until people are done with the crisis and done being scared. It is not worth it. I can’t afford it. It’s not feasible.”