Edzo’s Burger Shop launches with a soft reopening

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Edzo’s Burger Shop restarted operations earlier this month after seven months behind closed doors. After temporarily closing in February due to COVID-19 restrictions and slowing business with winter weather, the restaurant launched a new menu, revamped interior and new services.

Founder and Owner Eddie Lakin said they opted for a soft reopening with a shortened menu and fewer hours because it was difficult to find reliable staff right away. He wanted to avoid putting too much pressure on his new employees.

“I didn’t want to overextend (our service) too soon and end up giving people poor service,” Lakin said. “It was a way for us to open up, get reps and train everybody…It’s been so fulfilling and gratifying to come back.”

After a few days of successful business, Lakin returned to the full menu – minus the char burger, which was cooked to customer specifications. Since then, Edzo’s has continued to operate with limited hours.

Resident of Evanston Per Jacobson said he had been frequenting Edzo’s since it opened in 2009 and was excited to have a burger in town after mostly seeing hot dogs.

Now that Edzo’s is open again, he said he’s delighted to finally be able to eat inside the establishment again.

“I was worried, as I think a lot of people were, because Eddie kind of shut down (Edzo) quite suddenly,” Jacobson said. “I was thrilled when I saw him post ‘We’re going to do a soft open’ and made sure to go for it immediately.”

Katherine Gotsick is the General Manager of Main-Dempster Mile – a non-profit organization that supports businesses in the bustling commercial district where Edzo resides. She said several other businesses have also made soft reopenings by limiting their menu, hours of operation and seating, among other innovations.

A soft opening is a chance for businesses to test the waters before fully opening up, Gotsick said. For those without corporate support, she said soft-opens can be particularly helpful because smaller businesses typically have less support.

“That’s smart,” Gotsick said. “A soft opening is to test your menu, your processes. You can test your systems, your hardware.

In addition to the soft launch of its menu, Edzo has “protected” its interior with a new coat of paint, new flooring, a wall to separate the kitchen and dining room and a floor circulation scheme to reduce physical interactions with customers. Lakin also eliminated the soda fountain machine to reduce contact, offering bottled and canned soda instead.

Although Lakin said he feels like he’s let people down by being closed for so long, he’s glad customers have been kind to the store’s return.

“Ninety-nine percent of the customers came over and said, ‘We’re so glad you’re back, we’ve missed you so much,’” Lakin said. “It’s really wonderful to come back and not see them say, ‘Hey, we’re mad you’re gone’…it really filled me out.”

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