COVINGTON, Ind. – The Beef House has been busy serving up steak dinners and its famous rolls in the restaurant’s dining room since May 11 when Indiana eateries were allowed to open at 50 percent capacity.
“Business has been good,” said Bob Wright, who is among the four generations of the Wright family to own and operate the 56-year-old establishment.
Up until then, customers were content with picking up their Beef House meals curbside during the statewide COVID-19 restrictions that started March 24.
Indiana restaurants were still restricted to carryout and curbside service when the Beef House had to accommodate customers on what is traditionally one of the busiest weekends for the restaurant: Mother’s Day.
“We just had curbside pickup, but we served 2,000 dinners on Mother’s Day,” Wright said.
The well-known restaurant along Indiana Route 63 continues to follow the state’s current Stage 3 guidelines that has temporarily shut down the salad bar and still limits the number of tables available in the dining room as well as the number of people seated at a table to six or less.
“I have no idea when we can have the salad bar again, but the cafeteria-style lunch is being served,” Wright said.
For diners who miss the salad bar, “slaw, potato salad or salad – we can put croutons or whatever they want on it — can be brought to the table,” he said.
Wright said he has a soft spot for families who want to share a meal together after staying at home for weeks.
“If you’re a family, we will seat more than six together,” he said. “They’ve been shut up and haven’t seen each other for a long time.”
For now, diners are welcome to come to the restaurant for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday without a reservation unless it is during the 6-7:30 p.m. dinner rush time when reservations are suggested. Reservations also are suggested on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“They need reservations, especially at night,” Wright said. “We’re taking reservations so we don’t have lines.
“We’re also closed on Mondays for now because we need help; we need servers,” he said. “We had some employees who didn’t want to come back because they were concerned about the virus. It’s a serious thing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also is affecting beef prices and the beef supply because several meat processing facilities across the country have shut down after workers became ill with the virus.
Wright said he is trying to maintain menu prices for now, but admitted the prices he is paying for beef and other meats have increased 40 to 100 percent, and many items are now unavailable.
“We haven’t raised any prices yet, but we might have to,” he said. “Beef prices have doubled. Inside round steaks have gone up 60 percent, or you just can’t get them because of supply and demand.
“You can get hamburger because big companies stocked up and put meat in their freezer, but the good cuts of meat you can’t get,” he said.
The reason why the better cuts of meat are in short supply is simple.
“There’s not a lot of steak in one 1,400-pound cow,” Wright said. “There’s about 70 pounds of steak and the rest is hamburger. There’s also a lot of bone and hide in a steer.
“At the Beef House, we go through 120 8-pound rib eyes a week,” he said. “That’s 60 head of cattle.”
Despite the decline in the beef supply right now, Wright said the Beef House is fully stocked with the staple that has made the restaurant famous.
“We have plenty of meat,” he said. “We have a big inventory.”
To reassure the customers, Wright added, “We’re still serving our rolls and our steaks.”