Solano SBDCFairfield, CA

The crew at Chez Soul has rallied behind their restaurant and its reputation, rising to the challenge of feeding the community and thriving in a COVID-19 world

Cheryl Reed

“Mama is Cooking and the Whole Family is Invited”

It’s hard to get a photo of Cheryl Reed, founder of Chez Soul, when she is not surrounded by people.  Her friends.  Her community.  The staff, so many of whom are called out in social media for their warm, friendly service.  Then there are the many groups the restaurant supports, as Chez Soul is an active donor and supporter of many causes; in fact, last fall, Pre-COVID, they posted a list of books wanted for their support of a literacy group and customers brought them every single book on the list!

The support they give the community comes back to them ten-fold.  To say that Chez Soul has a loyal, engaged clientele is an understatement.    Their sales are close to what they were when the restaurant was open for service.  Imagine!  Daily takeaway and delivery sales are keeping them close to the same level of business as when they were primarily sit down.  And that is how, and why, they are surviving and thriving during the COVID pandemic.

They are cooking and serving for community events, police and fire dept. outreach and housebound people.  They are so busy organizing for their weekly sales and charities, in fact, they have been able to close two days, Monday and Tuesday, in order to re-charge, relax just a bit and get organized fully for the other five busy days of running the restaurant.  

All of this just begs the question, just how good IS the food?  I’ll let their customers tell you themselves: “haven’t had fried chicken this good in a long time” …“whose Grandma is in the kitchen?”… “creamy mac and cheese, fresh collard greens”… “catfish perfectly crunchy and fresh”…. “I never leave without grabbing a dessert out the door”…“probably the best soul food I’ve ever been to”.

The Solano SBDC reached out to Cheryl and Shantel just prior to COVID when they had a chance to take a sneak peek at the makeover they were doing for their website, which is now optimized for easy use on a smart phone. You can find them at www.chezsoulsoutherncuisine.com  This has also helped them optimize pickup and delivery orders.  This has been a boon for the current restaurant TO GO era, given the dine in restrictions due to COVID.

Cheryl and Shantel were paired with Mani Niall, from the Restaurant Program to work on team building exercises and sales techniques, until COVID hit.   

In fact, the reduction of work hours and general slow-down of most businesses seems to have become a motivational force for the team.  The crew at Chez Soul has rallied behind their restaurant and its reputation, rising to the challenge of feeding the community and they are thriving! 

Then there is Cheryl’s family.  They are the real secret ingredient, the key to success over their 14 years in business.  Founder and Chef Cheryl, daughter Shantel is the front of house manager and various nephews are passing through while going to school.  As the youngest full-time team member, Shantel oversees the pivot to social media and working with the various apps for delivery and ordering.  She told us a few of the reasons they have been so embraced by the community from the beginning, “ We provide a great home cooked meal, a true taste of home for people that don’t have the time, we take pride in our food, customer satisfaction is a high priority plus our team is so hard working!  We offer good, solid jobs and have hired homeless people: one person couldn’t read and went through the literacy program we sponsor, and they still work here.  Don’t forget our red velvet cake or my personal favorite, the nilla puddin’ cake.  Need I say more”?

 

 

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.