While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many businesses throughout Riverside County, one little donut shop in Temecula is surviving. With the closure of non-essential businesses, many early birds’ favorite breakfast sweets are threatened with potential closure. Rancho Donuts serves its delicious donuts, breakfast sandwiches and warm cups of coffee to its morning regulars.
The shop opens at 4:30 a.m. and that’s when the sweet smell wafts of fresh donuts layered with a thick glaze or their variety of maple to blueberry donuts, including their breakfast and lunch sandwiches with more than 21 filling options to pick from. Feeling thirsty? The drinks they offer are rich and sweet, from caramel lattes to iced thai teas with boba.
Rancho Donuts owner, Socheata Chea, has created an environment for early birds to start their day. However, she was struggling during the pandemic after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shutdown, which enforced COVID-19 restrictions. Chea was scared and worried at first about how she was going to pay for her bills, rent and wages.
With the way the pandemic has affected the food industry, many restaurants have dipped into a red zone of potential closure. However, the donut shop wasn’t forced to close down as Chea had thought.
“We actually only closed for one day, which was when they announced the lockdown around March of 2020, but that’s pretty much it,” she said. “We [have been] open since cause there were people who were telling me I was allowed to open, so I stayed open, and plus I never received an email or letter from my landlord and the governor that I had to close.”
In Riverside County, COVID-19 restrictions did not allow restaurants to host dine-in, forcing restaurants to convert to outdoor dine-in or just pick-up orders. With the new restrictions, the donut shop had to adapt and change in order to stay afloat.
“I had to raise my prices, and I knew it wasn’t the best idea to do at the moment, but I needed to because of the lack of income I was getting and I needed a way to make up for it,” said Chea. “I also didn’t allow dining anymore due to safety reasons, a glass window between the register area so there could be distance between the customer and my cashier. Same with wearing a mask at all times.”
Since the drastic change of consumer behaviors, it’s no surprise that it has changed the donut shop’s pace of customers, including the early birds and regular customers. Chea lost many regular customers once COVID-19 hit—about 70 percent of her regulars and about half her income. She said she had to rely on the weekends because that’s when she makes the most money.
Chea also had to cut back her employees’ hours early in the lockdown.
“I also had a lot of food waste due to the fact we barely had any customers coming in and buying our donuts,” she said. “But we seem to be doing fine at the moment cause business seems to be picking up right now since December of 2020 to the present day.”
During the pandemic Chea hopes that her regular customers come by to see that they’re open for business. As of right now, her and her employees have been staying busy during March and April, finding themselves slowly getting back to normal.
As for her plans for the future of Rancho Donuts, Chea wants to continue providing her tasty donuts and coffee to those early birds as long as she can without the pandemic causing any more difficulty in the future.