Sloppy Mama's BBQ COVID-19 Employee Relief Fund

Sloppy Mama's BBQ has temporarily closed.  This decision was made with the information we had available to us, per the recommendation of the CDC and some events that hit very close to home.  So, why did we decide to cease operations?

COVID-19 has been on our radar for a couple of months and it's hard to plan for something you don't know much about and don't have the resources to plan for.  In our industry, we have very little margin for error.  We operate on single-digit margins, which is fairly standard in the restaurant industry. In 2019, Sloppy Mama's BBQ grew big time.  In addition to our Union Market location, food truck business, and catering/special events, we opened up at Ballston Quarter Market and our restaurant on Lee Highway in Arlington, VA.  This type of growth takes large amounts of capital and it was largely financed through short term loans which we have currently been paying off at a rate of about $25,000 per month.  Basically, that means there's no extra cash, last week's sales pay for this week's payroll.

So why did we close and what did closing give us?  First and foremost our number one reason to cease operations was safety.  As we were contemplating closing locations, consolidating staff and how we would serve everybody proper wood-fired BBQ through take-out and delivery, all of our discussions and deliberations kept coming back to safety.  Safety was the least common denominator.  The safest thing we can do, to stop the spread of COVID-19, according to the information we had was to cease all operations.  As we were contemplating a carry-out and delivery model, everything kept coming back to safety.  Last Saturday our daughter developed a cough.  By Monday she was sick with a proper cough and Monday evening she broke out in a fever and we knew we had to close temporarily.  After reaching out to our healthcare providers Tuesday morning, we were told that we could not be tested for the virus due to a shortage of test kits as they were only testing the highest risk populations.  We know that our daughter is going to be fine and we are not concerned about her long term health.  However, this made us realize that because we couldn't get tested the virus may be more prevalent than the numbers indicate and we are potential carriers of the virus.  So, therefore, if safety is our number one concern for our staff, their families, delivery drivers, and customers, the only rational conclusion is to cease operations immediately and reopen when the CDC gives the all-clear.  Even with limited contact, based on the information that we have, we can still spread the virus. Ultimately, everything pointed to ceasing operations and going into survival mode for the business and the community we love to serve.  We wanted to get ahead and be proactive, not reactive.

Closing the business allows us to preserve our resources for reopening.  Carry out and delivery would have been a drain on our resources.  We do real bbq and real bbq is labor-intensive.  There is always somebody tending our fires, making our sides and our sauces from scratch.  More money would have been going out than would be coming in.  By closing, we can keep our infrastructure in place.  Staff will continue to receive company-provided healthcare and we will be able to distribute emergency money in small amounts.  We decided we would be safer and the business would be better off in the long run by keeping people home and devoting our limited resources to them and eventually reopening.

So many of you have asked what are Sloppy Mama's BBQ's immediate needs and how you can help.  Our number one priority is providing for our staff during this time.  We are preparing for an 8 week shut down by following the recommendations by the CDC.  For our staff, company-provided health care is provided in the short term.  However, we do not have the cash reserves to pay people during this shutdown.  To reiterate, last week's sales pay this week's payroll.  The money from this campaign will be distributed to the Sloppy Mama's BBQ staff equally every 2 weeks for the duration of our global health emergency.  Any remaining money at the end of the emergency will stay in place as an employee emergency fund.

Finally, we would like to thank the Sloppy Mama's BBQ family.  First and foremost, a huge thank you to our staff, for whom this fund is set up.  You have been very understanding and receptive in knowing that we will come out on the other side.  There has been nothing but strength and resiliency from our BBQ crew.  We would also like to thank our customers as so many of you have reached out on how to help during this difficult time.  And to our family and friends, who know we will survive and thrive.  You were there in the beginning and you will be there on the other side.  We are in this together and we will get through this together.  Based on the information we have now; the safest thing to do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to temporarily close and self-quarantine.  #seeyouontheotherside


Debbie Neuman
Arlington, VA

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