Kristy’s Family Restaurant weathers the shutdown

Kristy’s Family Restaurant weathers the shutdownBy Laura Quezada

News Review Staff Writer

“This is hard times, but I’m not complaining,” admits Cesar Jesus Martinez, Manager of Kristy’s Family Restaurant.

“The shutdown has impacted my employees, my customers.”

Martinez has worked at Kristy’s for 20 years starting as a dishwasher, becoming a busboy, a cook and as manager for the last 10 years.

Known for its All-American food with flavors of California which include Chinese and Mexican foods, Kristy’s customers are primarily retirees, senior citizens who are extra cautious during the pandemic.

“This is a good time to get creative to try to bring more people in. We advertise, we add specials, and know our customers enjoy our delicious chili and soups. A couple of our favorite entrees are chili verde and our chili verde omelet.

We have challenges because of the cost of doing business. Now is a good time to bring a message to the community. We try to impact them to make them happy because it is stressful for them now,” shared Martinez.

This is a difficult time to navigate with the added restrictions, sanitizing, and guidelines to follow. Martinez clarifies, “It has added a lot of work but it is worth it for customers that they feel safe.”

It is never easy to predict how much traffic a restaurant will have so Martinez does what he can to help the bottom line, “I work extra hours to keep the payroll down and help the owner. Right now I have 10 employees. Before the pandemic we had 21 to 22 employees.

The city and county have helped by giving us hand sanitizer, gloves, masks. There are a few programs. The city is giving heaters for sitting outside. We are in the process of applying for that.” Lead Server, Lucy Vasquez, addresses the impact of the shutdown on Kristy’s.

“First, we weren’t allowed to have as many people in the restaurant, we started with 50 percent capacity, then from that they went to 25 percent, then outdoor only. You don’t want to be eating when it is 115 degrees outside. It was hard on us because we had to wear our masks. It was bad, especially in the summer time. Now in winter time Ridgecrest is windy and cold. Nobody wants to eat outside,” And the servers need to contend with a great reduction in income.

“My hours have been cut down. The tips, you know, the servers live off our tips, not our wages. We don’t work that many hours - just about 6 hours per day. But with the pandemic we only work 2 to 3 days per week. They try to rotate us so we can all work a little. It is very stressful because the tips are going down. People have been very generous, they tip us good, but we don’t have that many customers.”

Partial unemployment doesn’t help much because it doesn’t equal pay plus tips.

“It is hard,” Vasquez admits, “You have to cut back. We try to get as many programs as we can for covid. Like I did with my credit card, for example. They had a program where you didn’t get late fees, but it was only for a month or two and then you had to reapply. We try everything. We all have bills to pay.”

Vasquez shares, “We worry, too. We have kids and older people at our houses that we go back to. I have my mom, she’s 82 and I worry about her. My brother has health issues, I worry about him, too. We have to be very careful, wear gloves, sanitize our hands as much as we can, take off our clothes when we get home before we even get in the house. It is very hard. I am not going to lie. It has been very stressful for everybody. I think we all agree. Everybody is bored. We have no idea what to do any more. Two of my sisters had Covid, it was very stressful. They have recovered but it was very stressful. You don’t know. It is something new. You don’t know how people are going to react. Everybody is different.”

Martinez keeps a positive attitude, “I am very thankful for the loyal customers, the people who keep coming to enjoy our food and our service.”

Pictured: Cesar Martinez, Manager of Kristy’s Family Restaurant, and Lucy Vasquez, server, welcome customers as business partially reopens after shutdown due to COVID restrictions. — Laura Austin photo

Story First Published: 2021-01-22