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Birds & Burgers gives ‘hero bonuses,’ reduces prices during pandemic

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

ALABASTER — Some of the things Birds & Burgers owner Tyre Stuckey did during the COVID-19 pandemic might seem counterintuitive.

In the midst of a pandemic that has seen record unemployment rates and sky-high grocery prices, Stuckey gave each of his employees an additional $2-per-hour “hero bonus,” created new jobs and even reduced prices where possible—moves that have not only benefitted the staff but have strengthened the restaurant’s standing in the community.

“Once Alabama required the shelter in place mandate, I realized my team would suffer financially to support their families,” Stuckey said. “They would be bombarded with a constant flow of information from state and national news. This overload of information made me decide to follow daily CDC guidelines to inform our staff on best practices at not only work, but outside work and even home. We needed to stay open…we needed to be there for the community who were fearful of getting out of the safety of their home or vehicle. We needed to be open!”

As restrictions mounted, the first thing Stuckey did was contact other business owners about their plans—but this only seemed to add to the confusion. So he started a text chat with his team on safe practices both at work and home. He partnered with a UPS owner and friend to print a list of best team practices, signage, and information about gloves and masks.

The restaurant’s drive-thru provided the required distance to meet social distancing guidelines, while strict sanitary measures were implemented.

“I recognize the importance of good food served through a drive -thru venue,” Stuckey said. “People are afraid of this very contagious disease, and ordinary shopping at places like grocery stores have become a frightening experience.”

The idea for “hero bonuses” came about as part of a solution to alleviate the fear and apprehension in the restaurant’s team members. Birds & Burgers also took action in the community, partnering with local pastors to deliver food to the elderly and unemployed, and responding to community ideas like delivering food to healthcare workers at nearby Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Stuckey even hired one team member’s parent who had lost her job, and he adjusted schedules for employees with kids so they could spend more time with their families. A door-to-door delivery service also created jobs for team members and their families.

“As the saying goes, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’” Stuckey said. “We were committed to be more than a restaurant. We endeavored to be a place to gather safely, allow our minds to briefly escape depressing news, and escape isolation created by the stay-at-home mandate. Little did I know that I too needed the escape found at work.”

Every employee is provided a free meal during their shift, and family meals were discounted by $10 to provide “together time” for families. Where possible, the restaurant reduced prices in order to be sensitive to the financial impact of the virus and added value items like snack wraps for $2.75 to address the economic downfall.

Instead of losing business, Birds & Burgers has seen a nearly 60-percent increase in sales for the month of May versus March and April, Stuckey said, adding that no team member or family member has tested positive for COVID-19.

Stuckey also cited the effectiveness of prayer and said he prays for all businesses.

“It has been my honor and pleasure to serve the citizens of Alabaster during this global crisis,” he said. “The virus has taught us a different way to live and broadened our perspective of the needs of others. It has also emphasized that we are not only responsible for ourselves but for others.”

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