With the coronavirus infecting over 281,000 people in Illinois thus far since the COVID-19 pandemic began, businesses throughout the state have had to adapt to the rapidly changing state of our world. Now that the state has entered Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, a new round of decision-making has to happen to decide how to carry on operations while keeping customers and employees safe. Unfortunately, our We Compost Partners are affected by the pandemic as well, so we checked in with Zak Dolezal, chef and owner of Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen in Crystal Lake.

At Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen, the focus has been on sustainability since 2008. They believe that it’s important to “[start] our own garden to get us more in touch with our ingredients as well as an appreciation for the labor of growing food.” Gardening and the restaurant industry are inevitably accompanied by food scraps, so the next challenge for Duke’s was to determine how to sustainably dispose of their food waste. They initially tried doing it themselves, but eventually decided to work with Prairieland Disposal and Midwest Organics instead, and became a We Compost partner from there.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the restaurant business. Zak notes that “running a green restaurant is not a challenge for the weak of heart…running a business at 25% of capacity with stricter health protocols and rules ever-changing has created an immense strain on our industry.” Despite this, health and safety are incredibly important to Zak and the Duke’s team. When it comes to restaurant restrictions, even though “there’s no one enforcing these rules and each business must create their own standards to uphold…we pride ourselves on our ability to run a viable business while upholding high health standards.” They have relied primarily on curbside service during the pandemic, and are also offering patio dining, parking lot dining, and, eventually, a delivery service. The Duke’s staff all wear masks, they only let one masked guest into the building at a time, they screen their employees before each shift, and they work to diligently clean the premises. 

Zak notes that one of the biggest things he’s learned during the pandemic is how talented his crew really is. He says that he is “so proud of [his] team for their ability to adapt, persevere, and excel during these crazy times…Duke’s would not be here today if it wasn’t for them and our undyingly supportive family of guests.” 

If you want to support Duke’s during this difficult time, do whatever you can to continue to purchase their products. Gift cards are a really great way to support local businesses, because you can support the business upfront and either use the card yourself during a future visit or gift it! Zak also mentions that, “with fall looming and school starting back up curbside service will continue to be the safest and best way of supporting us.” For IFSC, support looks like continuing to tag Duke’s on social media and promote the business to remind guests to support restaurants that are doing their part for the environment.

Learn more about Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen HERE.