Little Fish Brewing Company has been able to stay open during the pandemic while providing a safe atmosphere for its customers and a plethora of food and beer for them to choose from.
“I think one of the most challenging parts was figuring out how to open up and make sure that it was safe, not only for our guests, but for our staff as well,” Beau Nishimura, taproom manager at Little Fish, said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic we've definitely had to adapt and change through different serving models. We have definitely changed our business model multiple times.”
Little Fish has restructured all ordering to be online-based. There’s a QR code on all the in-house dining tables that guests can scan on their phones. The QR code has its full menu, and customers can pay straight through online ordering. Once the food is ready, customers are able to pick it up at the bar food window.
Nishimura said that the QR code will most likely be kept post-pandemic due to its easy accessibility.
As well as the QR code for in-house dining, carry-out is still a viable option. Not only is Little Fish’s food available for carryout, but its beer can be shipped anywhere in Ohio.
Although Little Fish has its safety guideline set, it faced some challenges when it came to adjusting in the beginning.
“I believe that we're doing a really good job with the spacing of our tables, to make sure it's safe for everybody, but it definitely has put a limit on the number of people that can visit Little Fish at one time,” Nishimura said.
Although it cannot keep the same occupancy as it did before the pandemic, Little Fish is still hopeful that once the weather warms up it can again utilize its outdoor porch to seat more guests.
The city of Athens has been able to visit Little Fish since its establishment in 2015, and even amidst a pandemic, the restaurant still obtains support from its loyal customers.
“The community has been absolutely amazing through this whole process,” Nishimura said. “The show of support from has been heartwarming – the amount of people that have supported us and want to make sure that we survive, the people that stop in and, sit, say that they've been making sure to order carry out at least once a week, or every other week, to make sure they support us.”
That support comes from not only Athens residents, but Ohio University students as well.
“Me and my boyfriend went there for Valentine’s Day and it was perfect for the two of us,” Clara Williams, a freshman studying studio art, said in a message. “They have a unique atmosphere since it’s in a brewery and a really good menu, we got a pizza and queso and I would definitely suggest those two things.”
Williams said she felt safe to visit Little Fish due to its social distancing and clean atmosphere.
Nishimura and the rest of the staff at Little Fish encourage anyone who hasn’t tried the restaurant to come out and experience what they have to offer in a COVID-19-friendly way.
“I think if people haven't tried us yet, then they might be really surprised that we offer some of the most locally sourced food in the region,” Jimmy Stockwell, co-founder and president of Little Fish, said. “We have locally sourced meats, we make our own bread. Everything is very much from scratch in the kitchen, and sort of the same with our beer. We source from Ohio, a lot of our greens, and even some of our hops for the beers –– we have a pretty wide selection of everything. From the beers, we have everything from farmhouse ales to IPAs. In the food, we have burgers, and recently we had like oysters, and, obviously, those aren't local, but we try and have a pretty big variety. There's usually something for everybody.”