Highland Heights pizza shop survives pandemic


Official Pizza Roto Instagram

Pizza Roto, located at the corner of Miner and Wilson Mills, made adjustments during the pandemic, such as offering curbside pickup.

Danny Sherman, Guest Writer

Pizza Roto in Highland Heights did what it could to stay open during COVID-19. Efforts were successful and the two-year-old restaurant is now seeing a steady stream of customers.

When the pandemic started last March, recently promoted general manager Andre Pearson took all the precautions necessary to keep Pizza Roto open, as required by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. “We sanitized things, we bought sanitizer spray. We posted the safety precautions that we are taking, so when people come into Pizza Roto that we are doing the best we can,” he said.

Employee Madison Bresler remembers her first week of working at Pizza Roto and how hard it was to go into a new job, especially with all the new safety precautions. “In my first week they made me do all of the cleaning stuff. You would be surprised how clean we kept the restaurant when COVID [numbers were] big,” she said.

Roto had trouble within the first couple weeks of the unexpected pandemic, but the restaurant did what it could to stay open including changing the menu and food distributors. Pearson said, “The price of chicken actually went up and we couldn’t get bone-in wings for like a month and a half. Because wherever they were coming from that company had to cut people, it was just crazy like a chain effect.”

Key decisions were made by the owners and Pearson to help the restaurant succeed on a daily basis when the virus first hit. “We closed on Mondays which were the least busy days, and we advertised the restaurant a lot. We came out with the buy one, get one coupons and those brought in a lot of customers. The online system also helped a lot because people felt safe,” said Pearson.

Pearson admits the pandemic made him wonder if the restaurant might close. He said, “As soon as it hit, people stopped coming out, the roads had less cars on it, no one was coming in and everyone was scared because the USA didn’t know how to handle it. So it affected us immediately [because] the day when we got information that [the virus] was in the United States, people stopped going out.”

Bresler was hired in the middle of the pandemic and was able to witness first-hand what the restaurant was doing to keep customers safe. “Pizza Roto uses a curbside pickup, which allows customers to order online and get their food without coming into stores, which I think helped Roto stay open during COVID,” Bresler said.

Even though many other businesses closed during the pandemic, the employees at Roto didn’t experience that problem due to the owners’ key decisions and the loyal customers. Pearson said, “It did not affect any employee termination-wise, but hours got cut because we didn’t have the business to fulfil the employees full time hours.”

The loyal customers were key for the restaurant’s success, and now that people are used to the situation, Pearson believes Pizza Roto’s customers are increasing in number. “Now because there are so many precautions in effect like the vaccine, so from then to now you have your mix. I mean they wear their mask, stand six feet apart and it feels like we’re somewhat normal,” Pearson said.

Bresler had an easy time adjusting to wearing a mask all the time at work and says that the hardest part about her job is hearing the customers through the masks. She said, “I’m glad I stayed and didn’t quit. It was looking bad for the restaurant for a little bit, but we seem to be doing better and I’m getting more hours.”

Pearson is appreciative of Pizza Roto’s employees who didn’t quit and who stuck it out with him. “There’s alot of high school kids that work here and for most of them, it’s their first job so I definitely think they were worried or scared. A lot of them quit, and it was rough for a little bit, but the ones that stayed got through it and I hope they learned something from all of this,” Pearson said.

Pizza Roto is open seven days a week at 6139 Wilson Mills Road in Highland Heights. Customers can order online at www.pizzaroto.com or by calling 216-356-6992.