Highland Park Cafeteria temporarily closed because of the coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Snoyer.)

Highland Park Cafeteria has been a Texas institution since 1925. But the last location of the former chain is temporarily closed as the coronavirus levels the food and beverage industry across the United States. Owner Jeff Snoyer saved “America’s cafeteria” from closing in 1995, and he hopes to do it again. We talked with Snoyer about how he’s balancing life during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Highland Park Cafeteria’s closure: The mayor, the state government, they didn’t give us any time to prepare. With our system, it really requires people to come in and for the food to be fresh. It can only sit there for 15 or 20 minutes before we have to change it out. We can’t suddenly do takeout and delivery because we make so many items. A cafeteria only works if you have a good show of people. We serve as many as a thousand people a day. How could we have 6 feet of separation in the line? We have 65 employees, most of whom we’ve had to furlough.

His coronavirus business strategy: The costs continue, regardless if you’re open or closed. We’re saving costs. We’ve stopped automatic deliveries. We’re deep cleaning, taking inventory, fixing and waiting. Noah had the ark. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and then they opened it to see what was left of the world. That’s the way I look at it. We just have to rock in the waves and see if we can put [the world] back together. It’s going to be different.

Typical daily routine: I get up, walk the dogs and come to the cafeteria for a few hours. I have a real estate business, Monopoly Place Duplexes, and we’re making homemade hazmat suits so our maintenance workers don’t get sick or transfer something. I have foul-weather gear for when I’m sailing. The same suit is perfectly good for protecting against germs.

On giving back: We’d made food for like 1,000 people the day the City said we had to close, so we just gave away free dinners.

Highland Park Cafeteria staff give away free dinners. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Snoyer.)

His advice: Take care of yourself. We have excellent leadership. Just follow their guidelines.

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