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Surviving the Pandemic

Marlborough, MA: Firefly’s BBQ, a longtime After Midnight client, has been in business for nearly 20 years. Like all small businesses, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit back in March, the restaurant had to make radical changes — from shutting down Dante’s, it’s popular night club that featured live bands and dancing on the weekends, to closing its dining rooms and relying solely on takeout until outdoor dining was once again allowed and, eventually, dining indoors, with restrictions. Moreover, as New England’s biggest barbecue caterer, Firefly’s has lost a huge portion of its revenue from corporate events, weddings and parties.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going! While only takeout was allowed, owner Steve Uliss kept as many of his team members working, as possible, by offering free local delivery using his own people, and redesigning the parking lot and procedures to accommodate quick and easy curbside pickup. When dining outdoors was back on the table, Steve added masks to the Firefly’s uniform, trained greeters to take guests' temperatures before granting entry to the patio area, and taught servers to social distance and sanitize tables. When the state finally allowed indoor dining, Steve installed custom-built air purifiers that continually cycle air through HEPA filters and UV light, and broke up bar seating with plexiglas barriers. He came up with individually-packaged Catering Q-Packs so retailers and other businesses could keep their crews fed.

Meanwhile, After Midnight got to work. We created signage supporting Firefly’s pandemic protocols including QR codes so guests could easily access menus on their phones, and for those less technically inclined, we designed inexpensive single-use paper menus. We revamped the website to better communicate about COVID, and we ramped up marketing efforts via email, advertising and social media, resulting in an increase in Facebook followers from 8,000 in March to nearly 10,000 by December,


And while all this has been going on, Steve Uliss has still found time and energy to give back to the community by donating meals to local hospitals and first responders, and by expressing his gratitude to each and every one of his patrons with a special Thank You card tucked into takeout packs and handed out at the end of each meal.

• Learn more about Firefly’s BBQ...


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