Downtown restaurant becomes grocery store to better serve customers during COVID-19 pandemic

WATCH: Downtown restaurant becomes grocery store to better serve customers during COVID-19 pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Restaurants across the city of Memphis must change how they operate to comply with new COVID-19 precautions.

They are considered essential businesses and will remain open for takeout and delivery services.

FOX13 talked with one restaurant owner who isn’t moving to takeout orders. Instead, the restaurant is changing its entire set up.

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The owner of Spindini on South Main said he had to figure out how to support his employees and find a way to sell their inventory after dine-in services were shut down last week. He decided to open a grocery store.

The kitchen is still busy at Spinidini but when you walk into the dining room you won’t see chairs and tables. Instead you’ll see canned goods, fresh fruits and veggies and coolers with fresh meat.

“What we’ve seen over the last two weeks when we’ve gone into grocery stores, there’s been supply issues, well a demand issue - they can’t keep up,” said Spinidni owner Jim Losapio. “The holes that I saw in the store at Kroger, I could access those foods.”

Losapio said he turned his restaurant into the South Main Grocery this week, offering kitchen staples and even some grab and go frozen meals.

He told FOX13 the concept is popular, especially since there aren’t any major chain grocery stores in Downtown Memphis.

Losapio said they sold out of all their inventory on the first day and they’re getting shipments twice a day to keep up with the demand.

If you would have asked me this two weeks ago, I never would have said we would though about changing Spindini,” Losapio said. “But you know I think we’re probably leaning toward being maybe a grocer first and restaurant second.”

But Losapio said he’s most grateful he can keep his doors open, and continue supporting his staff.

“We run other restaurants on top of this, and I’m not going to lie, we’ve had 15-20 year employees that we’ve had to let go and it hurts,” he said. “It’s a sad situation when you have to do that so it makes you feel good when you’re able to give back to the community and that community will come out and support you.”

Losapio told FOX13 he’s only allowing six customers to shop at a time to make sure they practice social distancing. And in the mornings, they’re open from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for healthcare and first responders only. Then they’re open for seniors from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The doors open for the public to shop at 10 a.m.