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Rule no. 1: Nobody is allowed in the building except authorized personnel. No. 2: After said personnel arrive, their temperatures are immediately taken, sanitizer is applied, gloves are put on. It’s a regimen you expect to see at hospitals, but island restaurants?
“And they all have to swear to me that all they do is come to work and go home,” says the owner and chef of LB Social in Long Beach, Matt Hisiger, who has also staggered his crew's hours to maintain social distancing in his kitchen. “I wouldn’t say we’ve perfected it, but I think we have a pretty safe system in place.”
Whether for that reason or some other, LB Social has achieved something that Hisiger couldn’t have imagined in early March: A thriving takeout and delivery business. “I never did delivery, I didn’t think it was a good representation of the product,” he says. “And during peak times in the summer months I didn’t even allow takeout because of the stress that it put on the kitchen.”
What a difference a few weeks makes. These days, even a second phone line hasn’t been enough to meet the demand for Hisiger’s cooking. He and his team, led by manager Brian Connelly, resorted to accepting orders by text as well in an effort to keep a steady stream of patrons happy. And while most of Hisiger's New American menu remains available, his $49 family dinner has been a runaway success.
“I’ve always had this thing for fried chicken, and now seemed like the perfect time to implement it,” he says. The meal comes with 10 pieces (all legs and thighs), plus four servings of chopped salad, a quart of whipped potatoes, mushroom gravy, and a pint of ice cream. “No pun intended, but the chicken is flying out the window.”
That would be LB Social’s takeout window, after the orders are prepared, packed and sorted. “We have one table in the dining room for delivery, and one for takeout. It’s like a factory assembly line.” Hisiger prioritizes deliveries to seniors and others who are housebound, and has hired some local students for the purpose. “It’s not about the revenue,” he maintains. “It’s about being able to keep all our back-of-house people, and some front-of-house too.” So far, Hisiger has managed to retain 10 of the 17 LB Social staffers he had before the pandemic.
“Don’t get me wrong. The fact that the business is holding up in these times is great, but honestly it’s the humanitarian side that’s most important,” he says.
Indeed, every night that LB Social is open, even as he and his crew struggle to handle the evening rush, Hisiger prepares 16 dinners for emergency room workers at nearby Mount Sinai hospital. And thanks to a recent fundraiser he orchestrated with Joel Schneider, a customer who happens to be on the board at the hospital, the pair say they raised enough money for Hisiger to continue cooking and delivering those meals for at least the next seven weeks.
LB Social is at 62 W. Park Ave. in Long Beach, 516-431-7846, lbsocialny.com. Takeout and delivery hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Monday.