Nothing says comfort food like a plate of good barbecue, but for many restaurant owners, comfort has been hard to find during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s certainly been the case for Adrian Wright, owner of Charleston’s Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill. Like all restaurants, Wright’s establishment was limited to take-out and delivery during the early weeks of the pandemic. They also missed out on sales from fairs and festivals, many of which were canceled in the wake of the pandemic.
“We had lost so much money as far as inside business,” Wright said. “But all the festivals ... we usually do 20 festivals a year.”
The decline in revenue, coupled with the rising cost of meat, has put Dem 2 Brothers in a challenging position.
“People love our brisket, but we can’t seem to get a hold of it. Or the prices are way too high,” said Ashley Wright, Adrian Wright’s daughter and the restaurant’s general manager.
Adrian Wright said that while price of brisket is now more than $7 per pound, he hasn’t passed any of the additional cost on to his customers. He said his focus is still on serving the same high-quality food that has earned Dem 2 Brothers national acclaim.
“It’s about giving the right quality of food,” Adrian Wright said. “It’s about love when I cook.”
A recent gift from Kingsford Charcoal will help Adrian Wright continue spreading the love with his food until it’s safe to reopen the restaurant for indoor dining. As part of its #TogetherWithBBQ project, Kingsford awarded Dem 2 Brothers a no-strings-attached award of $10,000.
“We are blessed, very blessed,” Ashley Wright said.
The Charleston restaurant was one of 25 barbecue joints around the country to be singled out to receive the funds.
“Kingsford’s aim was to support pitmasters and iconic restaurants across the country who needed a little extra help,” said Kingsford spokesperson Jordyn Volk. Kingsford operates a charcoal manufacturing plant in Parsons.
“The barbecue world has looked to Kingsford as their trusted leader for 100 years, and we recognize the weight of the torch we carry,” Kyra Zeroll, Kingsford’s director of marketing, said in an emailed statement. “So, when the nation needs a little extra support, we’ll be doing our part to support America’s pitmasters by contributing $250,000 to barbecue joints across the country to ensure the iconic restaurants can keep serving up quality BBQ in their respective communities.”
While restaurants have been given the go-ahead from state officials to reopen indoor dining at 50% capacity, Ashley Wright said she does not yet know when they will welcome customers back inside.
“It takes a lot for restaurants to reopen,” she said. “You have to retrain your people. You have to give them the proper things they need to be able to social distance and keep things sanitized.
“It’s best to keep people safe, but it’s definitely taking a toll on us.”
Adrian Wright said he intends to use the money to keep the business running until things get back to normal, whenever that may be.
“It’s all about surviving and keep striving to be better,” he said.