DE PERE, Wis. —  David Doherty has had a front seat to an unbelievable year in the restaurant and hospitality business — right in front of the grill.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” the kitchen manager at The Abbey Bar & Grill in De Pere said. “My new favorite phrase is nimble. I’ve had to be more nimble in scheduling and ordering.”

Nimble is also what’s helping keep The Abbey and other businesses across the state alive.

The restaurant and tavern is being recognized as part of a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. contest launched this fall highlighting innovative and creative ways small businesses are adapting to the pandemic. 


Abbey owner Kerry Counard said that encompasses everything from keeping staff safe at work and in the community to beefing up take out business and finding a new presence on social media.

“My first day, when we were forced to go take out only, we had one customer. Which kind of opened my eyes and I said, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do,’” he said. “I went on social media and started Facebook posts on a daily basis, Twitter on a daily basis. Stuff I’ve never done before.”

His kids chided him about becoming an internet influencer.

“I truly have no intention of being an influencer, unless it means I can save my business,” he said. 

The business has also found a way to help give back a little to the community.

A couple times this year it has used money supporters of The Abbey sent Counard to buy — and give— gift cards to take out customers.

The goal: they pass them on to someone else.

“They could in turn take those gift certificates and bring them to front-line workers, maybe people who couldn’t afford to eat out,” he said. “Or just people they knew were in need.”

The Abbey, one of the top 17 innovators in the contest, is girding itself to survive whatever it’ll face in the coming weeks and months.

“We’ve positioned ourselves to dig our nails into the cliff, so to say, and just hold on for dear life,” Counard said.