The Dalie’s dilemma: How COVID-19 impacted a family owned business


Michael Lolley

Pouring out sauce into individual containers, alumni Eli Basler performs this task daily. Since the beginning of COVID-19, Dalie’s stopped giving bottles of sauce to customers, and instead they must order the sauce with their food. “A lot of stuff has definitely slowed us down,” Eli said. “ We have had to do a little more work but it’s a good thing that we’re worried about our customers safety.”

Last year, most businesses had to close their doors for a few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while others still have theirs closed today. One family owned restaurant, Dalie’s Smokehouse, closed for about a month last April, and things are still not completely back to normal. Dalie’s is owned by Craig Basler, father of junior Nathan Basler, and three other alumnus. All four kids have worked or are currently working at Dalie’s, and they also have recruited other students to work alongside them.

“When Covid started shutting down businesses on the coasts, our initial reaction at Dalie’s was to figure out a way to continue to stay open as long as possible,” Craig Basler said. “We were making and changing plans daily trying to keep up with the latest guidelines. We knew we weren’t preparing for if we shut down, instead we were preparing for when we shut down.”

Dalie’s spent just over a month closed completely, waiting for the opportunity to open again. For just one day during their closure, the restaurant managed curbside and drive thru pick up; It was the day before Easter.

“The hardest part about working here during COVID is hearing people talk. Whether it is a customer or coworker, the masks can make people’s voices muffled, so I may not understand what someone needs when they say it the first time,” junior and Dalie’s employee Kyle Norman said.

Right now, Dalie’s requires everyone to wear a mask unless they are sitting down and eating. They also have a plastic divider up at the register, and they do not allow customers to fill their own drinks at the soda fountain. On top of that, the restaurant has spread out all of the dining tables in a way that everyone can remain socially distanced while still enjoying their food.

“One of the main things that make it really hard for us to work is all of the new safety precautions put in place,” Nathan said. “It slows down our work making it harder for the employees to work efficiently and give customers the best experience possible.”

In the Basler household, five out of the six family members are working at Dalie’s together. Nathan is the youngest of the four kids.

“Being the son of a business owner can make work and home stressful,” Nathan said. “It has its ups and downs because on one hand, I know what’s going on in the restaurant better than most people, but on the other hand, everyone expects the most out of me because of my family.”

Last July, Nathan first started working at Dalie’s. He had never held a job before COVID-19, and all of the restaurant guidelines made starting a new job even more complicated.

“It was tough at first to keep up with every order and make sure I didn’t make any violations of our guidelines,” Nathan said. “[The] Coronavirus made our checklist of jobs even longer, and they all went by way slower to make sure we got everything done the right way.”

Craig Basler has had an extensive history of being a chef and the food industry as a whole. He has worked everywhere from cooking at the X-Games for nine years starting in 2004, to being a head chef at Bogart’s Smokehouse and now owning Dalie’s. Throughout the pandemic, Craig used his time to make additions to his business model.

“At Dalie’s, a couple of positives happened [due to the pandemic]. We opened a drive thru window and an online ordering platform that we had never done before Covid happened,” Craig Basler said. “We knew [the pandemic] was going to be big as soon as New York started shutting down, and four weeks turned to six weeks, and then six weeks turned into three months. We really couldn’t prepare for it. Once we were closed, we just tried to keep our name in social media circles to stay relevant with our customers and to let them know we were still around.”

Although this year has been tough on many different industries, Dalie’s continues to welcome customers.

“The business has seen a huge increase in support from our community and customers,” Nathan said. “We have customers coming in every day saying how happy they are that we are still open, and we always tell them that we are the thankful ones for having such good customers.”