BAE Interview: A Good Morning Cafe
Without a doubt, the best way to start a long day of work and commuting in Silicon Valley is with a good breakfast. In the months before quarantine, the routine for Rick and his restaurant, “A Good Morning Cafe,” was to serve breakfast fare to a broad range of customers, from office workers making early drives from far away, as well as loyal customers from Los Altos. In the months since business closures and restrictive pandemic measures, however, the breakfast culture of Silicon Valley — and A Good Morning Cafe — has been tested.
As we sit down with Rick, socially distanced just outside the cafe, he explains some of the effects of COVID-19 on his restaurant. “The landscape for businesses is chaining a lot right now,” he explains. “With our cafe, business is down by almost 60%… Right now it’s kind of ‘break even’ for us. All the money we pay goes to our landlord and our employees.”
A Good Morning cafe has been around since 2010, longer than many other businesses in the Village Court Shopping Center. In the midst of shelter-in-place, most nearby businesses closed up shop, leaving the cafe operating alone. “Everyone around us closed, but we stayed open,” Rick explains. “Sometimes I took a look at the state of things and weighed the options of closing; still, I thought, we’ve got to keep open.”
The decision has placed some strain on finances, Rick admits. “We worry about [our employees] the most, because these people could be out of work for a long time; they’re like family. They stay here for so long, more than I even stay at home with my wife sometimes,” he remarks, chuckling. “We work nearly 9 hours, 10 hours a day — so it’s a given that we really stick together. When we closed, we wanted to make sure that we could continue letting all of our employees work. I worry for them the most because they really live paycheck to paycheck — and that’s why I decided to keep open.”
Those sacrifices have come at a price to A Good Morning Cafe. “I had to put my own money into the business,” he continues, regretting that he has since stopped doing this out of his own strained finances. “It cost me too much in the end. But I want to do everything I can to make sure I can save my employees’ lives too.” Finances have also forced him into tough decisions, including recently laying off some employees. “I feel bad,” he remarks sadly, “but there’s less and less I can do.” Among other dangers, a recession is one of the things Rick fears most. In his words, “it’s impossible to get back up afterwards,” especially while restaurants like his are already down.
Ultimately, Rick hopes that the fear stemming from COVID-19 will soon ease, and more customers will be drawn to order takeout. While an unorthodox choice for breakfast, there may be no other way to assist restaurants like his. “Sometimes it’s hard for customers to come out of fear that they will be infected,” he acknowledges, but there are other options. He told us as we spoke with him that his greatest hope is for people to spread the word on businesses like A Good Morning Cafe.
Through its decade-long existence, A Good Morning Cafe has picked up a few loyal patrons. One customer, who Rick knows as “Mark,” always makes sure to wave hello as he passes by the restaurant; it’s all he can do while the restaurant remains closed to sit-down dining, and offers only take out.
Rick maintains that the only way A Good Morning Cafe, and other breakfast establishments like it, can grow is through is by increasing the amount of people in the community who know about what they offer. “We really try our best to help the city and other people living in this area. Some people in this area who commute want good food, and we can provide that — and we deliver,” he continues, smiling.
He finishes his talk with us by tying his future aspirations for his business back to the people. “When you do business, it’s all about the customer,” he says. “So, what I’d like the people of Los Altos to know is, just come on by… that’s what’s most important in times like this.”
4546 El Camino Real, Los Altos, CA 94022
Find out more about A Good Morning Cafe here: