Exeter family turns to drive-thru service for business during pandemic
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Courtney and Travis Odom have continued ensuring that families in the Exeter area could still get their taco on.
While Moe’s dining rooms were closed in accordance with state guidelines, as the franchise owners of Moe’s of Exeter and Wyomissing, the Odoms offered take-out and delivery options. They also began organizing neighborhood Taco Kit “drive thrus,” also known as Moe’s Taco Popups.
Prior to the pandemic, Courtney Odom said things were going well for the Wyomissing and Exeter Moe’s locations, which opened in 2009 and 2013 respectively.
“We were a part of the community, employed around 20 people, and enjoyed full dining rooms almost every night,” Odom said.
But then in March, Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 cases began to mount and Governor Tom Wolf issued shelter-in-place orders for much of the state, forcing bars and restaurants to close their dining rooms.
“I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of those things etched in our memories forever now, like where we were on 9/11,” Odom said. “It was March 12 when things started shutting down around the country. Travis was in Atlanta for a quarterly committee meeting… [which] quickly went from their planned agenda to crisis planning.”
“Thankfully, we did not have to close Exeter or Wyomissing [because we could offer take-out and delivery],” Odom said.
However Moe’s still wasn’t immune to the impact of the pandemic and resulting changes, and they did have to lay off some staff.
“That first week was terrifying for us as small business owners, watching our sales drop by 65 percent,” Odom said. “We were brainstorming ideas and working our tails off figuring out how to survive it, how to keep paying our staff. Each day seemed like it brought more changes and more bad news, and it was a scary time as a business owner.”
Then a Moe’s franchisee in Virginia came up with the idea to set up neighborhood drive-thru taco pickups.
“We thought it was brilliant,” Odom said. “We thought Exeter would love it, and tried it first at our own driveway on April 4. It was a great success. We had lots of great feedback, and many requests from people to host them at their own driveways. From there it took off.”
Since then, Moe’s has hosted over 30 popups, delivering a total of 880 taco kits.
“Some of these have been fundraisers so we have been able to donate over $3,700 to local organizations!” Odom said.
The Taco Kits serve four to six people with 12 soft flour tortillas, choice of two proteins, toppings, chips, salsa and, of course, a bowl of Moe’s Famous Queso.
“It’s pretty simple to host,” Odom said. “The host promotes and advertises the event through their social media… however they choose. As a thank you for hosting, the host receives a free taco kit, plus they earn 10 percent of their popup sales back in rewards. Becoming more popular is hosting the popup as a fundraiser for an organization.”
When Berks County went into the Green phase on June 26, Moe’s was able to reopen their dining rooms for eating in, but things are not quite the same and Odom thinks some changes might stick. The Odoms have also since been able to bring back their staff to full capacity.
“Of course some changes have been made for social distancing, putting stickers on to keep customers ordering and/or dining six feet apart, our managers and crew wear masks and have temps taken prior to every shift,” Odom said. “We now have individual salsas instead of the open salsa bowls and have minimized touch-points.”
Curbside pickup and the Taco Popups, which were born during and due to the coronavirus pandemic, have been very successful, so Odom said they will continue to offer them.
“[They have] been very popular and will not be going away anytime soon!” Odom said.
The Odoms have lived in Exeter Township for eight years, and they have two children in Exeter Township School District. They’re proud to be business owners in this community, as well as community members themselves.
“Our Exeter community has shown immense support, and we have felt the love!” Odom said. “It has been so incredible to see our community come together to support one another. Continue to shop local when you can, remember to have patience and grace with one another as we are all stumbling through this together, and just keep on sharing the love.”
For more information or to schedule a Taco Popup in your neighborhood, email email@example.com.