BAR HARBOR – When coronavirus was first detected in Maine in March, restaurant owner Diwas Thapa was faced with an empty dining room.
Even before Governor Janet Mills declared the emergency “Stay Safer at Home” order, Thapa noticed a decline in customers at his Rodick Street restaurant, Royal Indian.
“That’s when we switched to delivery,” Thapa said. Offering free island-wide delivery, Thapa said he handled the deliveries himself for the first week. Once the service caught on, he added another delivery driver. “At times now,” he said “we have three people at a time delivering.”
Free delivery was so successful, Thapa said, that he gained new customers: “a lot of people trying [Indian food] for the first time.”
Thapa said the delivery is “no-contact,” meaning the driver leaves the food outside the door, calling the customer to confirm they got it. The final step of calling to confirm prevents the mistake of leaving food on the wrong porch, he explained. “Some houses have no numbers,” he said.
The restaurant now delivers to the Cranberry Isles. Delivery drivers transport the food as far as the dock and put it on the mail boat for transportation across.
Thanks to increased business through deliveries, Thapa reported he did not have to lay off any staff while dine-in service was closed. He plans to continue to offer free island-wide delivery now that his restaurant is once again open for dine-in service.
Up the road from Royal Indian, Coffee Matter is also offering free delivery. The seasonal coffee shop recently started delivering coffee by e-bike to intown customers.
Owner Cristina Devora said delivery is offered from 7:30 a.m. through 1 p.m., covering the entire downtown area from College of the Atlantic campus to Cromwell Harbor Road.
As well as delivering coffee drinks and baked goods from her own shop, Devora said she is also delivering breakfast items from neighboring Thrive Juice Bar, with whom the coffee shop shares a building.
Devora’s husband, Chris Marcial, said offering delivery is “something we’ve been thinking about for a while, because of the necessity of the situation,” with many customers staying home.
Across the island, Mount Desert Water in Southwest Harbor is a company for which deliveries is nothing new. According to Dawn Evangelista of Mount Desert Water, the company delivers 5-gallon water bottles to homes and businesses to be used on a water cooler that the company also provides.
“We have a client base,” she said. A lot of the business clients are on hold, she said, as offices are closed. To balance that out, Mount Desert Spring Water has seen an increase in home deliveries. “It sure does keep me busy,” Evangelista said.
The company employs two delivery drivers who cover an area as far north as Eastport and Calais and as far south as Rockland. The coronavirus pandemic has not altered the delivery schedule, Evangelista said. What it has altered is how the water is delivered.
Previous to COVID-19, delivery drivers would bring the water inside the home or business, Evangelista said. Now bottles are left outside.
If customers cannot carry large water bottles themselves, they can still request in-home delivery. In that case, drivers will wear masks, Evangelista said.