For several years, I have had the distinct pleasure of touring chamber businesses and interviewing leadership and employees to create this Out and About column. I have met extraordinary people and have learned so much about the diverse businesses in our community. As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Out and About columns will continue to highlight the resiliency and inspiration of chamber businesses.
Growing up in southern California, I remember my grandpa and grandma taking me to Norms for breakfast. It was such a special treat because we did not go out to eat as a family too often. I always looked forward to the pancakes and bacon.
The first Norms opened on Sunset Boulevard near Vine Street in 1949. Several of the restaurants were designed to look like automobile showrooms with booths resembling bucket seats, angular walls, large glass windows, a jutting roof, and a neon marquee.
Norms has two locations in Torrance, and each has been a chamber member for over 19 years. They have welcomed chamber events at their locations, hosted breakfasts for the chamber board of directors and they have actively supported the 5K for Freedom.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we were extremely proud of how Norms gave back to the community, during an exceedingly difficult time for all. We tried to fulfill a need/gap when grocery stores were under supplied. In all we gave away 575,000 eggs and 15,000 pounds of bacon and several hundred rolls of toilet paper. stated Mike Colonna, President and CEO, Norms Restaurants.
Last March the decision was made to keep all Norms restaurants open, even under the restrictive ‘stay at home’ orders. “When this decision was made, we had four goals: survival for all, and fulfill a need at the moment; never become a past experience, or just a memory to guests; keep as many team members employed as possible and give back to the community with what limited resources we had,” explained Colonna.
I asked Colonna what he felt was the biggest challenge during the pandemic and what was the biggest lesson learned. “The list is many, but our ability to try to keep our staff and guests safe and healthy, during a time when the information (aka science) was constantly evolving, was priority #1. Not one restaurant manager, or one support team member walked away from this challenge, during nearly a year of the pandemic uncertainty. And our hourly team stepped up, and interacted with each other and our guests with discipline, respect, and empathy. The biggest lesson we learned is running a restaurant that cannot seat guests is really, tough. But running a restaurant without employees is impossible”, stated Colonna.
I had the opportunity to visit with Fidel Lopez, manager of the Norms Restaurant on Hawthorne. The restaurant had a nice lunch crowd last Thursday. As I waited for Fidel to gather employees for a photo, I noticed colorful display boards in their lobby. A large display board invited guests to sign up for the Norms Text Club, one announced the To-Go Family Meals starting at $25 and invited guests to take home a $5 meal with any adult entrée purchased.
In speaking to Taylor Roll, Off Premise Sales Manager for Norms, I learned that Norms is rolling out a Food Truck. “Whether you are planning a corporate picnic, community event or social gathering, our food truck is a great way for your guests to enjoy NORMS classics without leaving the party! Our food truck is completely self-contained, equipped with generators, and operated and staffed completely by Norms,” stated Roll.
The Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce thanks Norms Restaurant for being a longtime chamber member and wishes each Torrance location continued success.