While small businesses across the U.S. are reopening and adapting to the new normal, we’ll be highlighting stories of OnDeck customers who are facing these challenges head on. They share ways they changed their business operations to deal with new realities and how they used financing from OnDeck to help along the way.
We recently spoke with OnDeck customer Ghassan Bilaih, who operates Gyro Oasis Deli & Grill in Irving, TX. Ghassan used his OnDeck financing to upgrade his equipment and to have his restaurant operate safely during COVID.
Tell us about your business. How did it come about?
I worked in corporate America for 20 years before opening my restaurants. I started the Irving location of Gyro Oasis Deli & Grill in April 2010. Prior to that we had two other restaurants, one that I sold and one that I decided to close. We serve the Irving community and are close to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, where we get lots of airport travelers and businesspeople.
Gyro Oasis is a Mediterranean deli that serves Greek and Turkish wraps and plates. We cater in the area, and most of my business comes from the major corporations around here, like 7-11, Citibank, and Exxon.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as a small business owner?
When you have your own business, the business owns you, not the other way around. Sometimes you cannot take vacation or plan things because if something comes up in the business, that is a priority.
Why did you choose OnDeck and what’s been your most memorable experience working with us?
When I was looking for a business loan, I noticed other companies wanted so many documents. It was too complicated. OnDeck was just bank statements and their payback terms fit my budget.
OnDeck was easy to navigate, and the process goes on autopilot after you sign the contract. I don’t have to call to keep track of my payments. Everyone I talked to at OnDeck is professional and friendly.
How have you used the money?
My initial loans with OnDeck covered furniture, equipment, and a new POS system. After restructuring my last loan with OnDeck, I recently took on a new loan to cover expenses associated with sanitary equipment, plastic shields, signs, and booth separators for the restaurant.
How has the coronavirus impacted your business? Have you had to do anything to adapt to COVID in the long term?
April and May were tough. In Texas we went from 25% indoor capacity to 50% to 75%, but then we moved back to 25% in June due to the virus uptick. June was trending better, double April and May revenue at the time.
We had to change up the menu and the way we advertise to customers. Before, we waited for customers to come to us, and we didn’t need to advertise. Now local companies are closed with no more than 10% of employees working in the offices, so I’m using Facebook and Google to attract new customers. I’m seeing new faces from these efforts, but it’s in the 10s, not the 100s. As far as employees, a few who decided to stay with me switched to delivery. We didn’t do home delivery before but now we are because more people are working from home. Our hours of operation are changed; we’re now open for dinner and have some weekend hours.
We’re trying our best to be safe, and my business is using masks, gloves, and sanitizers in delivery cars and in the restaurant. Food is packaged sealed with plastic containers and disposable plates and utensils.
What do you love about being a small business owner, specifically in this industry?
My college degree has nothing to do with food, but I use my talents in other ways, and I love it. I have a sense of accomplishment and pride. I’ve put two kids through college and I’m very proud of that. I’m also a people person, and I love getting to know my customers.