QUINCY — Most new businesses, especially restaurants, open their doors with at least a little fanfare. On Quincy’s south side, the new location for Chompz took the opposite approach.
According to co-owner Steve Bunch, the idea was to get things up and running slowly at the new location so the team behind the counter could figure out if there were any problems to address. The plan worked, for the first day.
“We had probably 500 to 600 people through (Thursday),” Bunch said. “(Friday), we’re around 2,200.”
Opening a restaurant is nothing new for Bunch. Along with his wife, Patti, and their children, they opened Zoup in 2013 focusing on soups, salads and sandwiches. That was followed by Skrambowls, providing a wide breakfast menu, and then Tropical Smoothie was added to the lineup. When Skrambowls moved to its current location at the Illinois Veterans Home, Bunch opened Chompz at the former Broadway location.
When restaurants fell under service restrictions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bunch knew a change was needed.
“When indoor dining closed, we knew we needed a drive-thru,” he said.
Bunch found a location that was available in an underserved part of the city with the old Hardee’s location at 12th and Jefferson.
“When I first moved to Quincy from Iowa in 1963, it was still a Sandy’s,” Bunch said. “When it changed to a Hardee’s, my mother and sister both worked there.”
Along with the drive-thru, the bigger kitchen was also a draw for Bunch.
“We were working out of an incredibly small space on Broadway.”
Bunch purchased the building around the beginning of August last year and started working to bring it back up to speed in September. The original plan was to have the new location up and running in late October or early November, until the state imposed more restrictions on restaurants.
With COVID-19 restrictions in mind, Bunch continued to work on the building, some days on his own, just doing a little bit here and there.
“We just kept going,” he said. “Life’s not normal for contractors right now, either, so we just kept working at it.”
When the doors opened this week, Bunch knew there could be a few bumps, but he gave all the credit on a successful opening to his employees.
“I can’t compliment this staff enough,” he said. “I can’t make a business a success. It’s the people you surround yourself with, and if the staff puts in the effort, they get the bigger rewards.”
This philosophy is spelled out on the company’s website: “Each payday (employees) take home a bigger paycheck than we do.”
Bunch wants to make the experience the best possible for both customers and employees.
“We want our customers to be happy and have a great experience,” he said. “We want the same for our employees. We want them to be happy and satisfied with the work they do.”
Chompz serves a menu filled with traditional grilled foods, from a variety of state-themed burgers to tenderloins and hot dogs. The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.
Bunch said that, down the road, he would like to open a second location somewhere along Broadway again. With a drive-thru this time.