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October 14, 2021 3 min read

How did a Mexican Restaurant in a Wisconsin summer tourist town survive the 2020 Winter of Covid?  

Beanies Restaurant typically does very well all summer long, with people in boats stopping off to visit the beautiful parks and shops in the scenic town of Port Washington, about an hour north of Milwaukee, on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The winters are much slower due to less tourist traffic, so when Covid hit, initially with a 25% restriction on indoor seating, they needed some fresh ideas to extend their outdoor patio seating into the winter. “We saw the igloo domes in Milwaukee and Chicago, and we thought that would be a creative and safe way to extend our outdoor seating into the winter”, remembers Madeline Binsfeld, Beanies’ General Manager. “We have a large outdoor patio, so we decided to order three igloos from another company on Amazon. The company said they had them in stock, but they never delivered. Last minute we decided to try Sonostar, and we were really pleased when the boxes arrived just a few days after we ordered. We ordered three of them, and we got a crew of family and staff to put them together.

Everything was color-coded and the directions were easy to follow. After we got the first one made, we could use it as a model, to build the others. We hired someone to make wood platforms for the igloos, so that we could keep the igloos warm with electric heaters and add decorative lights. In addition, we carpeted the platforms to help with heat and decorated them for the different holidays throughout the winter months.”

 

Now let’s be clear. Port Washington has some really extreme weather. “I remember waking up one morning after a big snowfall, thinking, ‘Oh, no, maybe the igloos will be collapsed!’, but they upheld in the extreme weather. The structure was more durable than I thought.” Even with a couple of feet of snow on the ground and temps below freezing, Beanies kept the igloos booked all winter long. “We invested in Alleytrak, a reservation system that made scheduling reservations easy”, recalls Madeline. “Each party was given an hour and a half to dine, listen to music and play games. We scheduled a half hour in between each reservation for cleaning and sanitizing. Alleytrak was super helpful for scheduling and making sure we did not double book reservations.” Beanies also offered family-style dining packages, serving huge plates of enchiladas and fajitas where the guests could help themselves during their reservation. “We found we could get as many as 8-10 people in the igloos comfortably.”  

 

The restaurant not only survived, but flourished during these winter months. “The local newspaper did an article on us. No one else around had anything like it. We had people driving from Milwaukee, sometimes an hour and a half to get here, because it was such a fun dining experience. And then when people got here, they also visited the other shops in town. We hope the whole town benefited from the Igloos.”

Beanies planned to take the dining igloos down in April, but popular demand would not allow it. “Cinco de Mayo is a big day for us, so we kept them up through that. And then there was Mother’s Day. We finally took them down in mid-May and we are planning to bring them back out in November. We had customers asking all summer when we were going to have the igloos back.” That’s a great position to be in. Congratulations to everyone at Beanies for their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Here’s to another great winter season!


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