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One Year Later Much Has Changed, But Cali BBQ is Stronger | Brick-and-Mortar to Digital Restaurant

One year ago on St. Patrick’s Day, I climbed up on the roof of our restaurant to broadcast to the world the most difficult message I’ve ever had to send.


It was still early 2020 — before many people fully understood the new reality we were all facing due to the COVID-19 virus which was spreading around the world.

Shawn Walchef on the roof of Cali Comfort BBQ in Spring Valley, California

But one thing was clear to us at Cali BBQ; we knew we had to change the way we operated the restaurant business fast in order to survive into 2020 and beyond.

We had to become a digital restaurant.

You can watch the message we published online on YouTube:

Here’s what the ECalifornian wrote in May 2020 about the coronavirus-related shutdowns that impacted us all:

“While preparing for a great day of sales on St. Patrick’s Day, the COVID-19 epidemic in full throttle, suddenly all restaurants had to close doors to patrons and quickly move to pickup and delivery services. Although Walchef saw this coming, March 17 turned out much differently than originally planned.

‘We had to lay off 27 on St. Patrick’s Day [retaining 28 employees],’ said Walchef. ‘Which is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done since owning this restaurant for 12 years. Not just telling everybody. But telling them so abruptly. But our thinking was that the sooner that we notified them, the quicker they could get in line for unemployment so they could actually get paid while they were not working.’

To keep the restaurant running during a shutdown, Walchef said they were fortunate that they already had systems in place for ordering online with a mobile friendly website, a large social network and a community built over more than a decade.

‘Doing to-go ready was a priority for us digitally was important,’ said Walchef.”

Safe Food Delivery, Catering, and Pickup from Cali BBQ

Unfortunately our transition from a full service restaurant into a takeout and delivery only operation meant laying off many of our amazing staff as we leaned in to a fully to-go business during the pandemic.

But now, a year later, we’re happy to be hiring again because of our friendly ghost kitchens growth plan.

In October 2020, I went up on the same rooftop at Cali BBQ in Spring Valley to delivery the much happier news that Cali BBQ was expanding and hiring as we grow.

Here’s what we originally posted online in March 2020:

I just sent the most difficult message I’ve ever had to send to our dozens of hardworking staff members at Cali Comfort BBQ. Since 2008 we have been fortunate to be open and serving slow-smoked barbecue, cool cocktails, and hosting amazing guests at our restaurant and sports bar in Spring Valley, California.

Since 2008 we have been fortunate to be open and serving slow-smoked barbecue, cool cocktails, and hosting amazing guests at our family run restaurant and sports bar in Spring Valley, California. Now as restaurants and bars like ours are being forced to close their doors, we all have to adapt fast or risk having to shut down completely.


I recorded a heartfelt video message to our friends, family, and supporters on St. Patrick’s Day from the rooftop of Cali Comfort BBQ in Spring Valley. The holiday is usually a day where our sports bar and barbecue restaurant is packed with guests and full of revelry.

St. Patrick’s Day 2020 was much different. The bar was empty. The booths were empty. Our staff was still busy though, as we worked to shift our entire operation fully to takeout and delivery.


As the industry and world changes around us due too the COVID-19 pandemic we are forced to deal with many hard realities. The way we’ve done things for the last decade plus will have to change.


Dine-in service makes up about 70 percent of our business. It’s going to be a very difficult period for us and so many others in the hospitality industry now that patrons can’t eat and drink inside Cali BBQ.

At Cali BBQ, hospitality is in our DNA. We will always do whatever we can to serve you great food safely and conveniently.

Restaurant Owner Webinar - Jan 2020 - Slide 3

2020 to 2021 Growth 

I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve learned about becoming a digital restaurant this last year. 

Getting through these difficult times has taken lots of hard work from our entire staff but it is paying off.

We ask ourselves every shift: how can we extend the hospitality we provide our guests within our brick and mortar business to our online presence?

Shawn Walchef opening Toast system at Cali BBQ

The accelerated growth and technology improvements we made to our restaurant like implementing Toast POS and SaaS (software as a service) products and tools like Ovation have been game changing for us at Cali BBQ.

This relentless focus on Digital Hospitality (which is also the name of our Cali BBQ Media podcast) has enabled our brand to come up with a very exciting growth plan for the future.


Brick and Mortar to Digital Restaurant

We will build our digital restaurant business just like we craft our barbecue, low-and-slow and with a focus on sharing our story so others in our industry can learn along with us.

Thank you to our friends, family, and amazing guests who support us in good times and not so good times. We couldn’t do it without you.

Nazdraze and see you soon at Cali BBQ in Spring Valley and Cali BBQ in San Diego!

Go out and support your local restaurant. It means a lot.

Now that I’ve asked for your help, I have a question. How can we help you?

Please get in touch and let me know at


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