Q&A: Michael's Seafood

By Jessica Maurer, posted Nov 18, 2020
Shelly McGowan
The GWBJ spoke with Shelly McGowan, owner of Michael’s Seafood Restaurant in Carolina Beach about how COVID-19 has impacted the business and how she is planning for the months ahead. 

GWBJ: Now that the pandemic is in its eighth month, financially speaking, how much of an impact has COVID-19 had on your business? 

McGowan: "In an eight-month average between the same time frame from last year to this year, our sales volume is down around 30%, labor costs have increased about 15%, and cost of goods has dramatically increased as we have all seen in the grocery stores."

GWBJ: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing currently as a restaurant owner and what measures do you feel need to be taken to help restaurants survive this crisis? 

McGowan:  "Keeping our staff and customers safe and trusting us is our priority. We have implemented various safety measures including creating a full-time cleaning person position, installing UV lights in all five of our HVAC systems that kills 99.9% of viruses, and ongoing staff training to commit ourselves to providing the best possible experience in a safe environment.

"A huge challenge currently is trying to find a way to manage the rising costs of goods and labor, while having to adjust to the changing mandates. We would like to see some assistance in the very near future to help our industry’s specific related economic challenges."

GWBJ:  What percentage of your pre-COVID staff has returned to work?  

McGowan:  "40% of our current staff has returned from pre-COVID. 60% of our current staff have been hired over the last eight months."

GWBJ:  Does the recent spike in COVID cases combined with going into the off season worry you?  

McGowan: "Yes, of course. There is a huge amount of uncertainty of what’s to come with the recent reports of the increase in cases. Going into the slowest four months of the year with not knowing what additional mandates may affect our industry is extremely concerning." 

GWBJ: What’s the current service model at Michael's?  

McGowan: "Under the current governor’s executive order as of 11/14, we are at half capacity inside, and we have a heated, sheltered patio as well as a large, socially distanced outdoor seating area. We are currently offering our entire menu for dine-in, takeout, curbside service and delivery (service area may apply). We recently added on-line ordering through our app (Michael’s Seafood)."

GWBJ:  Are you offering family-style meals or catering?  

McGowan:  "We recently updated our catering menu including a new section of family-style meals. Our full catering menu and family meal selections can be viewed on our app or website  These offerings are all available for take-out, curbside service and delivery. Advance notice may be required for certain items."

GWBJ: Does Michael's have any weekly specials or upcoming special events? 

McGowan:  "We have our theme night specials which can be found on our app or website. Something different we added this year is that these specials are available from open to close and also available for take-out or delivery. We also have Chef’s daily specials for lunch and dinner. These specials are always available on our app, and our social media pages are updated frequently.  

"We have our annual Thanksgiving Eve Oyster Roast coming up on Wednesday, November 25. In a change from years past as mentioned above, we will offer our special from open to close (11 a.m. – 9 p.m.) and it will be available for dine-in, takeout, curbside service or delivery. Oysters (steamed, you shuck) will be 50% off and steamed, we shuck or raw oysters on the half shell will be 20% off.  No reservations, however, pre-orders will be taken for takeout and delivery. Stay tuned to our social media for other upcoming events."

GWBJ: Michael’s has long been known for its award-winning seafood chowder. For those that might not be familiar, tell us a little about the chowder and why it’s so special.

McGowan: "Our award-winning chowder recipe was definitely created with a lot of love and is still made daily with the same amount of love. After winning multiple awards locally, in 2009 we decided to take it on the road to the International Great Chowder Cook Off in Newport, Rhode Island. Everyone knows how New Englander’s love their 'Chowdah.'  We were thrilled to win the International contest 3 years in a row and got retired to the Great Chowder Cook Off Hall of Fame.  . . .  We ship our chowder all over the country."

GWBJ: As a leader in the Pleasure Island business community, what message do you want to send to patrons as island businesses enter its off season amidst the pandemic.

McGowan: "While I cannot speak on behalf of businesses other than my own, I would say, thank you for your ongoing support and trust. We are all in this together."

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