Fires, Pandemic Don’t Stop Mountain Mike’s Operator
Sonu Chandi is president of Chandi Hospitality, which just opened its newest Mountain Mike's location in Eureka, California.
In 2017 it was the Tubbs Fire, a Northern California wildfire that destroyed one of Sonu Chandi’s Mountain Mike’s Pizza restaurants in Santa Rosa. Next came the Camp Fire in 2018 that nearly leveled the city of Paradise and generated so much smoke that Chandi’s restaurants in the area were impacted for weeks. Then last year the Kincade Fire prompted electric company PG&E to shut down power grids, disrupting operations and forcing the closure of 10 of Chandi’s locations in the North Bay.
“For my family and Chandi Hospitality, we’ve been through a lot,” said Chandi, president of Chandi Hospitality, an area developer for Mountain Mike’s and also with two independent restaurants. “Now with COVID-19, it wasn’t a fire, we didn’t have to move, rebuild, so I didn’t get as much of the anxiety. We could actually take a little bit of time to plan.”
Chandi and his family rebuilt their Santa Rosa restaurant, opening it last year, and all of their Mountain Mike’s are open for takeout and delivery, including the newest one in Eureka, which debuted April 15 despite the situation brought about by the coronavirus. Chandi said they considered delaying the opening, but when they started interviewing new employees in mid-March, the response was so strong that they decided to forge ahead.
“We got such a great response and hired great people, so that really prompted us to move forward,” he said. “We definitely were nervous. The last thing we wanted was the community to think, oh, they don’t care what’s going on around them, they just want to open.”
The team focused “a ton of energy” on health and safety training, plus enhanced measures with employees wearing gloves and masks. Chandi said word spread “that hey, we were doing it the right way.” Local media outlets also picked up the story of perseverance during the crisis, which Chandi added helped send a positive message to the community.
“We’re committed for the long term,” he emphasized, adding his family brought the first Mountain Mike’s to the North Bay in 2007, growing the unit count to 14.
While its restaurants are open, Chandi said they’ve definitely felt the impact from COVID-19, particularly at the five Mountain Mike’s restaurants with full bars, where dine-in customers accounted for as much as 35 percent of the business. They have been able to start offering beer and wine for takeout and delivery, but sales are taking a hit.
“We’re still down about 15 percent—but really that’s a blessing in all of this,” said Chandi, who noted he tries to look for the positives.
“It’s been challenging. But I’m thankful and I’m rewarded. Being able to open right now, it gives us energy,” he said. “It’s that belief that we’re doing something bigger than ourselves. With Eureka, it gives me the belief that nothing can stop us.”