Kiln to Table reworks restaurant for a safe reopening after lockdowns

Video courtesy of WCTV

Liz Carpenter, partner of Kiln to Table, said having a small business in Waynesburg is hard, but being a new small business amid a pandemic comes with even more difficulties.

In March, after being open for only five months, Kiln to Table, along with every other non-essential business in Pennsylvania, was forced to shut down their physical location due to Gov. Tom Wolf’s state-wide COVID-19 mandate.

The small Waynesburg-based business announced their decision on social media commenting, “it is with a heavy heart … We have decided to suspend the food service portion of our business for a minimum of two weeks.” 

Prior to their closure, Jennifer Adamson, owner of Kiln to Table, said they were already implementing sanitation and safety restrictions; however, they were not expecting a complete closure.

“We closed for two weeks because there were some concerns with staff … During those two weeks we shut down to revamp and then we opened back up,” Adamson said.

When Kiln to Table reopened after their two week closure, Carpenter said the restaurant was “reinvented.”

“We took all the chairs out and booths and we just set it up to be successful as a to-go restaurant,” Carpenter said. “Everything was in disposable cups and to-go boxes, it was kind of intense.”

In addition to changing to a complete takeout restaurant, they stopped offering their regular menu items and started offering family meals. 

Adamson said they served about 100 family meals a day, but that was not enough to keep their numbers where they should’ve been.

“Because the margins were still down about 35%, we bought a food cart and started going to the farmer’s markets … It helped for marketing and to augment some of the losses,” Adamson said.

In addition to the farmer’s markets and family meals, Carpenter said the community was also a key factor in helping Kiln to Table stay open.

“[The community] kept us going. They would come in and buy gift certificates and do anything they could do to support us,” Carpenter said.

Despite their losses, Adamson said they have been able to keep all of their employees during these past few months and were even able to hire a few more. 

As the restaurant reopens its dining-in option and students return to campus, Adamson said Kiln to Table’s numbers are slowly reaching normal heights.

“Now … we’re seeing our numbers where we were pre-COVID”.

As with many other places, the reopening of Kiln to Table comes with new safety restrictions. These have been implemented to keep the workers and customers safe.

“Having directional flow, having certain points of entry, making sure that all the staff is wearing masks; we had staff training to make sure everybody knew how to sanitize properly,” Adamson said. “It’s just making sure that the customers feel comfortable and that they know we’re doing best practices.”

In addition to the new guidelines, Kiln to Table has started hosting specialty menu weeks to get Waynesburg residents excited. Carpenter said the idea was sparked from the cancellation of the August Rain Day Celebration.

“We just try to get people excited to be a part of this community and to be from Waynesburg. It makes people proud to be from Waynesburg,” Carpenter said.

Kiln to Table has hosted a Rain Day menu, Fair Food menu and Back to School menu thus far. Carpenter said they are also planning a special Oktoberfest menu in the upcoming weeks.

She emphasizes the importance of reconnecting and hopes these initiatives get people out of their homes. 

“I think connection is really important and I think food and coffee is one of the many ways to bring people together,” Adamson said. “And you don’t have to talk about politics or COVID.”