National chains are thought to have the upper hand in surviving all this, but Indy’s local dough & other popular local spots like Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza are the best bets in Indianapolis for plunking down your meal money.
Indy’s Local Dough
The pandemic is far from finished messing with our food. Restaurants in Indianapolis will begin to open up again, very gingerly, but they will not — and may never — look the same. More business will be done on-line, through a window, at the curb, and by way of a delivery vehicle. And the intrepid walk-in crowd will find servers wearing face masks, tables farther apart, hand sanitizer next to one-time-use condiment packaging, and sheets of clear Plexiglas separating the food from our errant microbials.
National chains are thought to have the upper hand in surviving all this, but popular local spots like Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza are the best bets in Indianapolis for plunking down your meal money.
Jockamo, which has locations in Irvington, Greenwood and Lawrence, was established in 2007 and remains a model of consistency in serving up great pizza. Owner Mick McGrath, one of four members of the original ownership group — all still in place — was concise in summing up his restaurant’s ability to fend off the massive hit to the industry. “We are, fortunately, in a better position than lots of other restaurants in Indy because carry-out and delivery services were already part of our business model.”
But he knows there’s more to it than that. Successful eateries are active in the community and they take care of their own which means, for one thing, they’re honest with their employees. “Business is down, of course, but we haven’t had to let anyone go. Instead, we’re adjusting hours as necessary, prioritizing shifts to people who need the work the most. We told our high school employees we wanted to make sure people who had rent to pay got the majority of the shifts.”
There is compassion in the relationship. “They’ve been hit with a lot, too. They have kids in school. They’re as uncertain as anyone else. They’re watching the news. You want to make sure you take all of that into consideration.” And they aren’t just people he happens to care about; they’re great workers. “I’m really proud of them and how they’ve all stepped up and figured out how to handle this; how to take care of the customers. They’ve been good about trying different things, and if those things don’t work, pivoting to something else. They’ve been indispensable.”
Forging ahead in tough times also takes having lots of customers who already like you. “We’re really thankful for them. They’ve been supportive, very generous and very understanding through this whole thing.” And they are that way because of how Jockamo manages its stores in good times and bad. Preparing pretty much everything on the menu in-house with locally sourced ingredients is a hallmark, but how they serve it makes a difference, too.
Setting the Stage Early
Mick set the stage early on. “I’ve always felt it was important for managers to be trained on every job in the restaurant, and I never want to hear a server say, ‘Well, this isn’t my section, but…’! In our store, everyone is responsible for everything.” It’s a good fit for America’s unofficial Covid-19 battle cry, “We’re all in this together.” It’s something that starts, and feels most true, in places close to home.
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