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June 4, 2020
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Shari’s Restaurant in Rohnert Park

By: Sydney Wells
March 20, 2020

Given the COVID-19 virus concerns, this review is going to be slightly different then my previous articles. For example, I’ve been here many times over the years. My friends and neighbors love this place. Thus, I wasn’t discovering a new restaurant to enjoy. They’re also a chain restaurant with multiple locations throughout the Pacific Northwest. They’re larger than the smaller establishments I’ve written about in Cotati, Penngrove and Rohnert Park. Finally, being well established, they have a regular clientele and plenty of word of mouth advertising. Also, they have corporate budgets to promote themselves to the community.

I could have written a review without any problem at any time. So why cover them now? Because of all the above. Fears and concerns about this virus are hitting our local community. Events are being cancelled, schools closed, and churches are holding online services. I wanted to know what a well-established, well-known, larger sized restaurant was doing during this period of increasing social isolation. But before I tackle that question, let’s get the routine stuff out of the way.

Shari’s is located at 301 Rohnert Park Expressway, at the corner adjacent to Redwood Highway. They are open 24 hours a day. Founded in 1978, Shari’s is a family-style restaurant serving comfort food. Their extensive menu can easily be found on-line. You can eat in, take out, or have your meals delivered. You might know them as that “Pie Place.” They have a wide variety of pie for purchase by the slice with your meal. You can also order and take an entire pie home. On Wednesday between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. you get a free slice with your entrée. And kids eat free, two kids per each adult entrée, between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday’s. They also give a 10 percent military discount. Their food is good. The service is great. Wait staff is friendly and attentive. Prices are reasonable and comparable to other restaurants in the area. 

I could see that business was slow. The wait staff confirmed my observation. The parking lot, which is usually crowded, wasn’t. Waiting to be seated was unnecessary. It’s not just the business that is losing income. Employees are too, as social isolation digs into the customer base and their tips. Yet like many businesses, they are trying to reassure customers that they are taking extra steps if they venture out to grab a bite to eat. So, what exactly is Shari’s doing?

Based on observations during our most recent visit, we confirmed what they posted on their web page related to FAQs about this virus and their efforts. They increased sanitization efforts for all high frequency areas in order to maintain a clean and safe environment for all their guests. When we walked in, the tables were bare. No pre-set silverware, no salt and pepper shakers, no ketchup bottles or other condiments; no cream or sugar packets. The menus got sanitized after each use. High touch areas such as door handles, booth cushions and backs, highchairs and booster seats, countertops, restrooms and dispensers were getting frequent, extra special attention. They seated customers to maintain space separation. For example, we saw them rotate areas for serving customers. One area was closed and cleaned and scrubbed by staff while we were sitting in an adjacent area. After cleaning, customers got seated in that area instead of ours. As customers finished and left our area, our section was closed and cleaned. 

I’m sure other restaurants are also taking similar extra steps for the safety of their customers.  Restaurant businesses operate on small margins even in the best of times. This period of increasing social isolation because of the virus will be especially tough on them and their employees. Some may not survive. Some will have to reduce hours or lay off employees. 

But we can do our part during these turbulent times. Consider buying gift certificates for use later in better times. It provides income now, when they may need it most. Consider ordering to go or take a pie home. Order some meals delivered to you. And if you decide to occasionally eat out in a small group, consider restaurants, like Shari’s, that are taking extra steps to keep you safer. And don’t forget the wait staff. Tip a few dollars more to show your appreciation for their efforts and to help them weather the loss of income. After all they need to provide for their families too.

Until next time, thanks for the tip.