Despite record sales numbers, Pizza X’s profits fell during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effects of the pandemic caused employees to experience loss of housing, worktime cuts and exposure to the coronavirus.
While a huge demand for delivery orders drove up sales, Pizza X Director of Operations Roger Killion said the company made less money in 2020 because of higher labor and food costs.
Killion said employees’ wages were raised 75% from April to June last year and 15% from September to November. He said wage increases and high food costs offset the sales boost over the pandemic.
Killion said the wage increases were partly to keep the company’s employees paid since they couldn’t claim unemployment benefits with the locations open. The company never decided to close to ensure the business’s survival and serve the community, he said.
“You close for two months, you’re rolling the dice that things maybe get better, maybe get worse,” Killion said. “Not everybody knows how to cook, and people eat pizza, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that we needed to keep going.”
Taemin Moony, first assistant at Pizza X Campus, said his greatest worry working at Pizza X has been catching the coronavirus and spreading it to his family, coworkers and customers.
Moony said he’s concerned about students coming into the store without a mask or social distancing. He said one night he had to remind customers 39 times to not crowd the lobby, despite a sign in the waiting area limiting occupancy to four people.
“It’s odd to me that we’re this far into the pandemic and people don’t realize or remember that they need a mask,” Moony said. “I don’t think some of them really think about the cost that it is for other people.”
Nik Folley, second assistant at Pizza X West and IU undergraduate, said he missed weeks of work because either he showed symptoms or his coworkers tested positive. He said he and his girlfriend, who also works at Pizza X, each missed at least three and a half weeks of work since May due to COVID-related reasons.
“It feels like we’ve lost a lot of time as well as a lot of money,” he said.
Folley said the pandemic has exacerbated his financial woes. He said his landlord refused to renew his lease and offered it to an IU graduate student instead. He said his landlord deemed IU as a more stable source of income, and he and his girlfriend don’t have the resources to challenge the legality of their landlord’s decision.
“I’m sure there’s a way that we could have reached out, but we just didn’t really have the faculties and the time to do so,” he said.
Folley said he had to use his increased wages to scrape together a security deposit for a new place to live and clear his owed rent. After having worked full time for four years, he said he has barely $1 in his savings account.
“I’m really hoping that individuals are taken care of,” he said.