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Chef Katie Averill (Courtesy photo)
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

By Chris Frost


Mission Viejo-- Opening a restaurant is a tough venture in 2020, as the latest statistics say more than 90 percent fail in the first year.


Among the challenges that someone will face include finding the right staff, developing a menu that people enjoy, managing food and labor costs, and attracting customers to come in, try the food, and deliver the type of guest service that keeps them coming back.


That was the challenge that Chef Katie Averill took on when she opened Eat Street Kitchen in 2019.


Her restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch six days a week in a busy section of Mission Viejo.


It was going well until the coronavirus struck. Now the "Breakfast Chick" is worried, as she faces a situation she calls surreal.


Averill plans to keep operating her restaurant until someone tells her that she has to stay closed.


"I needed eggs yesterday, so I went over to Albertsons in Mission Viejo," she said. "There were between 80 and 100 carts wrapped around the outside of the building. I was like, holy hell; I don't have four or five hours to sit here and wait for this chaos, so I left. Things are out of control."


Averill tries to stay calm, but she can't find any eggs.


"I have a breakfast and lunch café," she said. "I use Sysco, Shamrock, and sometimes U.S. Foods (as a food supplier), but if I don't have a big enough order to go through them,  I try to buy stuff through Trader Joe's or the local Persian market where it's cheaper, but the shelves are empty."


She does offer pickup orders but does not offer delivery.


"I am a little café where people come in and order breakfast and lunch," she said. "There are car dealerships around me and businesses that come in and do takeout, but there is no way that will cover my normal business if I have to actually shut."


She usually stays busy on the weekend and spends the day making ricotta lemon pancakes for kids. 


"I'm closed by 4 p.m. every day," she said. 


Opening a new restaurant is challenging, she said, and building sales have been through word of mouth.


"I'm not paying for any advertising," she said. "My food is quirky. It's not like you come here and get an omelet. It's fun food. This virus thing is terrifying me."


Averill said the coronavirus has a weird trickle-down effect on her business and her staff.


"Everyone is affected," she said. "I'm afraid I am going to be ordered not to open at all. I haven't spoken to the landlord, but I am assuming the bills and insurance doesn't stop. The only bill that might stop is the food bills, but what about my rent?"


One of her customers is a cop, and he spent the day breaking up brawls at San's Club.


With all that, Averill plans to keep moving forward and taking the challenges one day at a time.


"I was busy on Saturday (March 14) and not so much on Sunday," she said. "I'm closed on Mondays, and tomorrow, with all this chaos, I don't know if anyone is leaving the house. It's a little terrifying. If this goes on for a year, my business will go under, and I am terrified of losing my house."


Additionally, she said her 22-year-old son, Colby Pratt, just returned from Madrid Spain, and he is under a two-week quarantine.


"He was breaking the rules in Madrid," Averill said. "He went out, and there was not a single person outside. They let him go, but he is not allowed to leave his house for two weeks."


That means no school, class, or any outside trips.


"He's in Fullerton at his girlfriend's house, probably contaminating her," she said. "He lives in San Francisco, and he wanted to get back to school and class. The world is upside down, right now, so he's going to do what he has to do."


Eat Street Kitchen is located at 28251 Marguerite Pkwy Mission Viejo.

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