Transcript: IANWA 63 Don't Give up! A Conversation with Doug Allen from Jose's Bar and Grill - Full
It's time for another episode of, I am Northwest Arkansas. The podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship, and life in general, here in the Ozarks. Whether you were considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Without further ado, here's our fearless host, Randy Wilburn.
Randy Wilburn [0:49] Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of, I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host Randy Wilburn, and we are still in the midst of this COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and we're dealing with it the best way that we know how. If you've been anywhere around and listening to the latest episodes that I have been doing, you will notice that I've been connecting with a lot of local business owners and just individuals here in Northwest Arkansas, that have been struggling and/or have been dealing with this pandemic, the best way that they know how. And today I'm here with Doug Rivermen Allen and Doug is the owner of Jose's Bar and Grill. It is a Northwest Arkansas best of, for brunch and they have been around for some time. If you ride down 412 after you leave 49 and you're headed west going towards Tulsa, you can't miss them. They're on the right-hand side there. And just a really, really great restaurant. A really great story. And in any normal time, I would really come on here just to kind of tell the whole story in the narrative of how Doug got Jose's off the ground and what they've been doing. But he has had to pivot based on everything that's happening right now in our current market and the current conditions that we're in. And I heard his story the other day when it was shared to me by a good friend of mine, a mutual friend of ours, actually, Gary Head from Signature Bank. And I said, man, I really want to get Doug on the podcast, I want to talk about what he's doing and how he is meeting the needs of our local community. So, without further ado, Doug Allen, how are you doing today?
Doug Allen [2:35] I am hanging in there. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Randy Wilburn [2:40] Oh, man, it's my pleasure. Well, why don't you just really quickly give our audience here at, I am Northwest Arkansas, just a quick, you know, a short synopsis of who you are and a little bit about Jose's Bar and Grill?
Doug Allen [2:52] Sure, you know, Jose's was started in 1980, you know, back in Fargo way back in the day. So, I actually started to work for Joe Fennel and Jose's, to get myself through school, which I did; graduated with a degree in Social Work. I use it every day believe it or not. Anyway, I put myself through school, through Jose's, and you know, I eventually started a Jose's up in Springdale, moved to Tontitown and, you know, I've been an owner of Jose's for about 18 years now. So, yeah, that's kind of the story about how I got it going.
Randy Wilburn [3:30] Wow! So, it would be safe to say that things were kind of humming along until just a couple of months ago, and things have changed drastically for you.
Doug Allen [3:40] Yeah, you know, three or four weeks ago, I was gearing up for the start of our busy season, patio, music, margaritas, chips, and salsa, you know, gearing up trying to hire staff and wonder where I was going to get staff. And, you know, three weeks ago, our whole world just turned upside down. It was a shocker.
Randy Wilburn [4:03] So what would you say? I think you told me at the height of--- you were almost about 30 employees, and you've actually had to decrease that number, as have a lot of local businesses or businesses around the country period. I mean, you're not immune to that. But you have almost had to drop your staff down to how many?
Doug Allen [4:23] Yeah, I had to drop down. I think we dropped down to about five to six people. Suddenly, you know, as we're sitting there trying to figure out you know, what to do and all that, we've since started adding people and I can't wait to tell you the story on that. So, we're able to rehire some people back, which puts a smile on my face because we got some people that you know, a lot of these people they don't live paycheck to paycheck, they live day to day, these are tipped employees that are, you know, they were having a tough time. If I can hire some people back and get some money in their pockets, help them pay some bills. And hey, you know, that's a win.
Randy Wilburn [5:03] Absolutely. So, tell me a little bit about--- Jose's has been traditionally Mexican food, is that correct?
Doug Allen [5:10] That is, you know, we call it [inaudible 5:12] mix. You know, it's kind of our own mix, you know, we're famous for fajitas and our salsa and our margaritas. I'm not from the Mexican country, but you know, we know how to make some Mexican foods. That's why we call those [inaudible 5:31] mix. So yeah, you know, we've been doing it while we got our own twist, so we do burgers and steaks, and I've got the barbecue grill going right now for some pork butts and we do some wings and stuff like that. We're kind of all over the place with it, but our base is Mexican food.
Randy Wilburn [5:49] Okay, do you do a queso-dip?
Doug Allen [5:51] Yeah, we do some white cheese dips our traditional yellow cheese dip, some meaty queso, brown chips, yeah, we do a variety.
Randy Wilburn [6:02] Okay, well, that's awesome. So, my understanding is that recently based on everything that is happening, in addition to food that you have extended or expanded your offerings, and I'd love for you to just kind of tell our audience how this came about.
Doug Allen [6:19] Yeah. Glad to. I think back on it, you know, the days are starting to run. Three weeks ago, Asa Hutchison, you know, he came upon the news, our Governor and he said, hey, you know, we got to start this social distancing. And then all of a sudden, you couldn't come into a restaurant anymore. And, you know, I was watching his news conference and he said, hey we want restaurants--- if you want to you can sell groceries out of your restaurant. And I kind of hesitated. I was looking at the TV and I said, what, I can't survive doing this, you know, I said a few choice words. And I think I even threw something at the TV and I said, you know, this is going to be devastating to not only myself but the rest of my friends in the industry. So, you know, my [inaudible 7:13] was down and, you know, I went to bed, I'd make a few phone calls talk to some people, some employees and I actually woke up. I didn't sleep very well to be honest with you. I was worried I woke up middle of the night and didn't know what time it was. But I thought, groceries. I can do this, you know, I can. There's some hard to find stuff out there ground beef, toilet paper, latex gloves, even beans, rice, bacon, chicken. I was like, my vendors have this and they have a lot of it. Grocery stores can't get it. I can get it and then I could provide it to the customer with a safe transaction. We can do a contact list, transaction pull-up, give me your order, I fill it, you know, no need to touch any receipts or, you know, we can keep our distance and we can make this happen. And it can supplement, you know, our revenue, as well as providing a need for the community. Basically, that's how I got started. So, I called my vendors. So, here's what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna wrap my arms around this, and we're going to figure this out because, you know, I've had to fight all my life for everything. So, and I'm not going down easy on this one. So, we got to figure it out. So, my vendors got with me, and they said, yeah, you know, we've got 20 pallets of this, 10 pallets of that, you know, we can provide you with products. I found sanitizer; I found numerous different things that we could sell and, in the community really wrap their arms around. They are like, thank you, and I don't want to go to the store right now. I'm afraid. Can you fill my car up? Can you do this? Thank you. Just the outpouring of people. It was unbelievable.
So, we kind of found a niche, you know, we had to adapt, and it's helped us survive. So, you know, that's kind of it in a nutshell. So, we became Jose's Grocery Express, you know, while doing takeout food and all that other stuff. We're three weeks into it now and, and I hate to say this, it's still not normal. But we kind of know what we're doing now. We're coming to work and we're kind of getting a groove and we're kind of figuring this out. If I wouldn't have woke up in the middle of the night and said, hey, man, you know, we can do groceries. I don't think I'd be here open today providing jobs, busy enough now that I'm re-hiring back people.
Randy Wilburn [9:53] Yeah. And I think that's important. I was just looking at--- you have over 10,000 people on your Facebook page, which is really impressive in and of itself. And certainly, with that type of following, it should be easy for any business to be able to at least drum up some support and awareness. I was looking on your site and you have like a list of all the stuff that's available. You're selling like, ATAC Cleaner / sanitizer concentrate by the gallon. I mean, you've got a little bit of everything. I mean, you've got the things that I would expect that Jose's would have, but then you also have other things and I'm looking at this list and I'm like, man, I actually need to come out here and pick up a few things.
Doug Allen [10:32] I just got two cases of toilet paper.
Randy Wilburn [10:36] It's the little things right. We laugh about it but man, I want to applaud you because as we talked about this last night, that's the indomitable spirit, you know of the American business, where we can kind of pivot when life hands us lemons and come up with something else that will work. I'm excited because if nothing else, if this does nothing else for you, and I really want other businesses to hear this, this buys you time.
Doug Allen [11:10] Exactly, you know, it's a band-aid on an open wound, but it's buying us time. You know what it gives people? It gives people hope. It gives my employees hope. It gives me hope. It gives my mind off, you know, that young virus. I was telling you the other day, you know, when I first talked to you about a guy who messaged me that says, oh, my gosh, Doug, I drove by Jose's, you know, early one morning and your truck wasn't there and my heart sunk. And then I came back through and your truck was there. And it gave me a sense of hope and normalcy that I need, you know. Jose's has been around for a long time; it's the little things like that that gives me hope. I saw your truck there. You're still doing it. You're still trying. It hit me round the [inaudible 12:01].
Randy Wilburn [12:02] Well, yeah, and I think that you bring up a really good point because you never know who's looking, and that's huge. And, so there's always going to be somebody and it might be a smaller business or somebody that maybe doesn't have the same following that you have, then they see, man if Jose gives up, meaning the company, then what hope is there for me. I, even as a small business owner, myself, I am infused with ideas and hope just based on what you're doing and how you have found a way to kind of stem the tide if you will. And so, I think it's exciting. Now, I guess my next question would be, have you had a chance to look into some of the programs out there that are potentially available to you? Do you think you'll be able to take advantage of some of them what will that mean for you?
Doug Allen [12:49] I've looked into the PPP, the Payroll Protection Plan. I've looked at all those, and I've studied those. I've come up with a plan for that, of course, Signature Bank has been extremely helpful and has given me information, given me resources to talk to, to get this plan underway. So, you know, it's still gonna be tough, it's gonna take some time to get that funding, looks like they're backlogged in paperwork, and whatever else, but it's definitely going to be a shot in the arm, not only myself, but other people in the industry are going to need. I'm from Eureka Springs and all those hotels, restaurants over there; those guys are hurt, my heart goes out to them and, you know, they're able to apply for some of this relief and loans, and hopefully, they'll get to reopen.
Randy Wilburn [13:48] Yeah, I think that's really important. And you know, Eureka Springs in and of itself is a special destination that a lot of people go to and obviously it's a destination that won't be utilized as much right now just because of the state and environment that we're in. So yeah, you need to get as much cash flow as you can to be able to bridge the gap between where you were and where you are currently, so I think that's really important.
So, what else has this taught you in the last couple of weeks because I think every small business owner has been in a baptism by fire in the last month, at least in terms of just how most people's businesses have neen turned upside down. I think I'd mentioned on a podcast recently that I had quite a bit of work to do, and I travel when I'm not doing this podcast, I travel, and I do some leadership training, and there is no travel. There's no training for me; I can't go anywhere. And so, I've had to totally pivot and change how I do things totally. So, where you're selling groceries, I'm now doing online trainings that used to be face to face. So, what else have you decided to do or what are you thinking about doing that has been much different than the way that your original business was set up?
Doug Allen [15:06] Yeah, you know, the takeout business, you know, we had to really pivot and figure that out really quick. It seems easy; it's not. Just like you think the grocery business is easy, you know, kudos to Walmart and Harps and all those guys, it's still just not easy. So, we've had to rethink about our systems. We had to redo, streamline our menu. We had to figure out what the customer wanted or how they wanted it delivered, what was safe to them. So, you know, we put together family packages of meals. We've had to get different to-go containers. We've had to re-train staff, systems in different places in order to get things out in a timely manner. And all those little quirks you don't think about, they all pop up and you go, oh, my gosh. I've got one line with a rollover, you know, the rollover is not active, not right now or both lines are busy. How do we combat that? How do we get food out in the kitchen quicker? How much staff do we need? What's the volume going to be? So, after a week, you start to look at some of your history and your numbers. Okay, I need to add a person here. I need to move this person over here. This person needs to take the calls. This person needs to put the orders in. This person needs to run the food out to the car. So, there are all kinds of systems. You have to really, you know, I guess you'd call it deflecting and countering. That's what we did; we deflected we countered, we deflected we countered. But you know, it was a new way of doing business. I mean, it still Jose's Foods but I haven't, you know, getting to the customer has just been a totally different mindset. So, one thing I learned about this whole business, and maybe this is since day one since I have owned Jose's, it's not an easy business anyway. You have to be a fighter in this business. If you're not gonna be a fighter, you're in the wrong business, okay? The margins are thin. Competition can be fierce. I do have a degree in Social Work and I use it every day--- employees, you've got issues to deal with besides just making tacos. I used to tell people making tacos and margaritas are easy, right? People are hard. Not just customers, its employees and we love them like, you know, employees are our family. These are some people that stuck by me, you know, the last three weeks, and they were there for me and I'm there for them. You know what I mean, and those people, you know, we're going to take care of and I'm not going to forget that. And we've had a lot of customers reach out to Randy. So, you know, tons of customers that love Jose's, have been coming here for years. I can't even tell you the amount of people that have called me, messaged me, sent me gift cards, money, whatever they could to help Jose's; that really is a great feeling.
Randy Wilburn [18:12] That is awesome. And again, I've seen that spirit. I know last week we had the whole NWA Gives Program. And there were opportunities for people to buy different gift cards. And I've just been telling people over and over again, buy gift cards, buy gift cards, buy gift cards. Maybe you can't use them now, but you can use them later. And if anything, that will mean every little bit helps. And some companies got $5,000 to $10,000 worth of gift card orders. And I mean that money can go a long way. I'd be curious to know for the employees that you have yet to be able to bring back, are you just kind of keeping in touch with them or checking in with them from time to time to see how they're doing or how you're doing as far as that's concerned?
Doug Allen [18:54] I'm definitely checking in with them. I just brought a new employee back today. You know, she was having a hard time and was starting to run out of money and food. And I brought her back today and said, hey, man, I got food. And I can employ you as well. So, let's make it happen. Yeah, we keep in touch with our people and make sure they're okay.
Randy Wilburn [19:14] Yeah, because I mean, when you hear all the stories out there and of course then the media is going to say one thing but when you just hear the stories in general about with the amount of unemployment that we're going to experience, yes, some jobs may never come back and all that, but I think some of that is also incumbent upon the organization or company to try to fight that as much as possible and learn when possible to create opportunities to bring people back on. It might mean thinner margins, it might mean as an owner, you take a little less at the top, but it also provides an opportunity for you to be there and grow because the one thing that I do think is going to happen and you can correct me if you think I'm wrong, is that when we get out of this, when we get on the other side of this issue, that people are still going to go out to eat, they might do it a little differently, we might be different about how we connect and exchange social touching and all that, but people are still going to need to eat. People are still gonna want tacos, and they're still gonna want margaritas. And so, I think that, you know, those that can fight the good fight right now, when we do get out of this, I think will be rewarded by being able to have some staying power through this pandemic.
Doug Allen [20:30] You know, I agree, we don't know what's going to happen in a month, two, three months from now. If I'm a betting man, I'm willing to bet that they're not just gonna say, hey, just go back to your restaurant, fill it up and everything's just gonna be hunky dory. It's probably gonna take some time, it's gonna take some distancing. I think we're in for the long haul on the way we're doing business now. You know, we really got to be creative and think and, you know, kind of be ready for the worst I just don't think there's gonna be a miraculous vaccine come out in the next month or two and everybody's just gonna be fine. You know, we hope that, but let's be realistic. And we're probably going to be doing this way of business for a while and we're just going to have to be creative.
Randy Wilburn [21:16] Yeah, and who knows, I mean, you might be able to ultimately spin off Jose's market and that becomes kind of a unique piece of the tapestry of the business environment here in Northwest Arkansas.
Doug Allen [21:29] Yes, it could be, we've a couple new ideas that I'm able to do that I wasn't able to do before is, you know, we're doing growlers of Jose's beer to go.
Randy Wilburn [21:42] Yeah, I was just about to ask you about that. They are allowing alcohol to go now. Are you able to do margaritas to go or---?
Doug Allen [21:47] We're not. We can't do any type of spirit but we can do beer. But Jose's is famous for our margarita so we're coming out with a jug of margarita mix. I'm just waiting for some labels to come in for that.
Randy Wilburn [22:00] Nice--
Doug Allen [22:01] --- with the recipe on it. We'll put the recipe on the jug with the mark, Jose's famous margarita mix. Then you just add your tequila your orange [inaudible 22:09], a little bit of lime juice, shake, shake, shake, shake and you can have your margaritas at home. So, you know that's another way we're deflecting and countering that so you know, get beer to go, margarita mix to go. You all want to call ABC and kind of nudge them a little bit. I'd probably be a minor miracle but, boy, if we had Jose's margaritas to go---
Randy Wilburn [22:32] Yeah, just with like a special container that doesn't open until you physically get to your driveway.
Doug Allen [22:39] Right, right. Exactly. If you can resist those margaritas until you get home.
Randy Wilburn [22:47] Oh, man, I love that. I love that. This is great. I knew I wanted to do this interview because it actually is inspiring me and I hope it would inspire some other folks. Before we sign off, I'd love for you just to kind of share an encouraging word for some of your local business compatriots that are going through just like you are and, you know, may have thrown their shoe at the TV like you did and may have said, what am I going to do next? Now that you are at this point where you are, and you're going to fight through this, what advice do you have for some other local NWA businesses?
Doug Allen [23:29] Don't give up. That's the best advice I can get. Your first reaction, your emotional reaction is to just throw your hands in the air and give up. Restaurant owners have thick skin. Don't give up. Figure out how to adapt and survive. Use your resources. Use your people that you know and figure out how you can make it. That's the best advice I can give and nobody knows how much you care until you tell them. Tell your people you care; you tell your community you care and it will come back tenfold.
Randy Wilburn [24:06] Yeah, I love that. We're not in a war but you know I think back to Winston Churchill back in 1940s where he said, never surrender, never give up and I mean we're at that place. We're not dealing with a war but we are in survival mode. We've got to do what we need to do to make things happen. So, I love that. Well that's perfect. Thank you so much for taking the time. If people want to connect with you online, they can go to your website, oleforjoses.com.
Doug Allen [24:44] Yeah. www.oleforjoses.com. Click on that, it's got an updated menu on it. You can get a little history about Jose's. If you flip a message through that website, you can get directly to me, if you got any questions. If there's any other restaurant owner, business owners out there that want to holla at me and say, hey man, I just need to sound off and I've got some question how do you do this or that? I don't have all the answers but I know what's worked up to this point. You know it could change tomorrow. You know, I consider the virus a piece of glitter. All it takes is one piece of glitter, you know to get on you then everything changes again. For right now, we deflect, we counter and we fight.
Randy Wilburn [25:25] So well, man from pork butts to sanitizer. I think Doug, you have kind of figured it out for right now. And what's the best number if people want to call in and either order food or if they want to order anything from the store side of things?
Doug Allen [25:44] Sure. That's 479-750-9055 and right now we're open on Mondays for groceries, but it's really Tuesday through Sunday for take-out. The groceries we do from about 11am to 4pm during the day. Our normal hours are 11am to 8pm for takeout.
Randy Wilburn [26:08] All right. And I noticed that the pork butts that we were talking about earlier, you're selling those and then you're taking some of the proceeds or all the proceeds to benefit families in need of food, which I think is great. So, will you continue to do things like that moving forward?
Doug Allen [26:25] Absolutely. We will periodically continue to do that. Today is pork butts, we're going to help feed some needy families that are having a hard time. They lost their job, they've got a bunch of kids, we need to feed people so you know, we want to do that and we're able to do that. You know, with help from our vendors getting us the product. It's easy for me to get that smoke to go on and, and help some people out. We send out a message on Facebook say hey, if you need some help, you message me, no questions asked. We've got food, nobody should go hungry.
Randy Wilburn [26:57] No, absolutely. Especially not here in North Arkansas. With all the farms and everything that we have here, so that's great. I'm curious, are you guys on Instagram?
Doug Allen [27:07] We have an Instagram account, but we're mainly a Facebook [inaudible 27:11] business.
Randy Wilburn [27:12] Yeah. Okay, well I will make sure that we share out all your information for Facebook and I will put all of your contact information in our show notes so everybody has it and they know how to connect with you and the rest of your team and how we can support you and what you're doing. And certainly, if people need sanitizer, or bleach or anything along those lines that you just can't find at a regular store, you need to really check out what Doug's doing here at Jose's Bar and Grill and Groceries. So, you need to check that out.
Doug Allen [27:44] Can't wait to hear.
Randy Wilburn [27:44] Yeah, it is. It's all good. We'll get through this. So, thank you so much for taking time to be on the podcast today. And we're going to put this out as a video and a podcast just to kind of share it with the widest audience possible. We want to encourage people that are checking this out. If you do happen to go into Jose's and you know, get in the line and bring your car around the pickup whatever you need to pick up. Let them know that you heard about it first here on the podcast and give Doug an air fist bump and tell him how much you appreciate what he's doing.
Doug Allen [28:17] Give me an ole for Jose.
Randy Wilburn [28:17] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So that's it. Well, thank you so much, man. I really appreciate you and all that you're doing and we are going to connect in the real very soon once this whole thing is over. So, I will have to get up there and get some margaritas and we will talk about this and how we've come through it. So, I appreciate everything. Thank you so much.
Doug Allen [28:40] Yeah, thanks for having me.
Randy Wilburn [28:41] Absolutely. Well, there you have it, folks. Another episode of, I am Northwest Arkansas. So great to just hear that inspiring story for Doug. I don't know, if that didn't get you excited or inspired about what can be, I don't know what will. And so, I really want to encourage you, especially if you're a small business owner here in Northwest Arkansas, to just keep fighting the good fight and hear and listen to inspirational stories of hope, like Doug's and what he's doing at Jose's Bar and Grill. It is possible, we can get through this. I know some people are going to lose their pound of flesh through this process. But listen, what I was always brought up with this understanding of whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. So, I really want to encourage you to remember that and remember what you heard here today, with Jose's Bar and Grill with Doug Allen and what these guys are doing here because there is hope, and there are possibilities. So that's all that I have for you now please check us out at iamnorthwestarkansas.com. You can follow us on Instagram or Twitter and certainly on Facebook, we'd love for you to join our Facebook page, I am Northwest Arkansas, and there's all kinds of links to that information on our website and you can also join our email list there to find out all the latest and greatest things happening. In addition, we have a COVID-19 resources page with all kinds of good information for everybody. This is not just for business owners. This is for everybody that's part of our community here in Northwest Arkansas. If you need anything health related or anything like that, there are all kinds of lists and links updated daily including Governor, Asa Hutchinson's Press Conference every day at 1:30. So, you can just check that out at iamnorthwestarkansas.com.
I'm your host Randy Wilburn. I really appreciate you guys. Yes, we are in different times. Yes, we are going to get through this. So, continue to do what you do on a regular basis and know that there are people out there that care and want to help you and want to help all of us get through this, in one piece. That's all I have for now. I will see you guys next week. Bye for now.
IANWA Open [30:56] We hope you enjoyed this episode of, I am Northwest Arkansas. So, check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcasts can be found. For show notes or more information on becoming a guest visit, IamNorthwestarkansas.com. We'll see you next week on, I am Northwest Arkansas.
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About the Show:
In this episode, we sit down with Doug Allen, Owner of Jose’s Bar and Grill based in Tontitown. Doug has been the owner of Jose’s for 18 years and has never seen anything like the profound impact that COVID-19 has had on his employees and his business. At one point they had almost 30 employees and when the pandemic hit last month Allen had to layoff a majority of his team. With a bare-bones staff of about five people, Allen kept the doors open and offered only Take-Out.
And then he got creative.
Answering the call that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson put out a few weeks back Doug decided to figure out what else he could sell during these challenging times that would not only keep his doors open but also help those that have supported him and his restaurant. He decided to offer groceries and other supplies that are in desperate need right now – like Sanitizer, Bleach, and Toilet Paper.
While Allen is not a Grocer by trade he is figuring things out one day at a time. And, more importantly, as he has ramped up his efforts and Take-Out and Grocery offerings Allen has been able to slowly start to bring back loyal employees that he had to layoff last month.
While we don’t know how things are going to end up for all of us here in Northwest Arkansas post-pandemic we can be inspired by small business owners like Doug Allen who will not go down quietly.
Doug’s message to everyone that will listen is simply this – “Don’t Give Up!”
So, whether you need Tacos, a Growler of Beer, or some Hand Sanitizer, Doug Allen and his team at Jose’s Bar & Grill have you covered.
Call them at 479-750-9055 for Curbside Take Out and Groceries.
See the MENU on their website at OleForJoses.com
All of this and more on this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas.
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