Virus response: BBQGuys learning to adapt, innovate during crisis

Cory Tisdale in October 2015.

Though the coronavirus crisis is wreaking havoc on the economy, local businesses are quickly adapting and learning to do things in new ways.

Take the BBQGuys, the Baton Rouge-based online retailer of barbecue grills, outdoor kitchens, cutlery and patio furniture.

“If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I’d have told you we couldn’t support a remote workforce,” Vice President Corey Tisdale says. “I didn’t think we had the equipment to support employees working from home until four days ago.”

Yet, by Tuesday, virtually all of the company’s 160 or so employees were holed up and working from home, like the rest of the state’s nonessential workforce. Tisdale credits the company’s IT team for mobilizing quickly and making adjustments to the company’s existing disaster management plan.

“We already had plans for what we would do if everyone were evacuated and couldn’t come back for a week,” he says. “Well, those plans have been repurposed and adjusted for the longer term.”

The company, which has three local warehouses and some 600 suppliers around the country, is also adjusting to how it will fulfill orders amid stay-at-home edicts in various states.

“We try to have a snapshot of what time frame every supplier is operating under and what their inventory is,” he says. “We can fill orders by hand, locally, but we can also route orders to suppliers, who are able to get them out fast. If we thought we could get something out of California and now find out we can’t, we can get it from some other warehouse.”

Tisdale says the company currently has a handful of employees at its local warehouses and is trying to make sure they are operating within the state’s most recent guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

“We’re committed to being compliant with all state rules and working safely while we take care of our customers,” he says.

 So far, business has been good this week, which might seem surprising, until you consider the amount of time people are spending at home and in their backyards. Traffic on the company’s social media sites is up 50% and orders have been coming in, particularly for grills.

“People are not buying as much as they normally would,” he says. “But it looks like they’re trying to outfit themselves for spending a lot of time home with their families.”

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