ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — It’s been a rough year for food and beverage vendors who normally make money at big events year-round.
With COVID-19, many of those events have been canceled. It’s why the Firestone Grand Prix was an exciting and welcoming time for businesses that haven’t been able to serve their normal customer base.
“Re-discovering a business model in the middle of a pandemic is definitely not easy,” said Diane Conigliaro with Chicken Salad Chick.
They turned to curbside pickup and community meal deliveries to get by and keep the restaurant relevant.
Capping attendance at 20,000 people, the Grand Prix is a little different this year. Fewer people equals fewer vendors which also means less competition.
“A lot more local people as opposed to out-of-state [people],” said Conigliaro.
Richard Delahoz, with Ricky’s Arepas and hotdogs, had to change things up too.
“We were actually able to sell some hygiene products through the pandemic and make some money but things have been tough,” he said.
But, he says they did just about anything to pay the bills and keep employees on the payroll.
“We have to stay safe but at the same time we have to continue to make a living,” said Delahoz.
It's why when they got the call three weeks ago the Grand Prix was a go — vendors packed up their product and got to work doing what they do best — fueling up customers to keep them going throughout the day.
“We’re passing out cookies and telling them to come back for lunch, we’re handing out little footballs, we’re doing everything we can just to get that recognition, something in their hands to identify us,” said Conigliaro.
They hope this event sets an example for future events in the Bay area when it comes to safety protocols to keep people safe.