Mark Daniels and Grace Freeman, owners of the Wichita Cheesecake Company, have choreographed a thriving business by continuing to shift and pivot to meet the needs of their growing and changing clientele, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located in front of the former Union Station building at 701 E. Douglas in Wichita, the business offers 30-plus flavors of cheesecake — in sizes from single-serving minis to 10-inch rounds that serve 14 to16. There isn’t much room for dine-in traffic in their small outparcel location, even with additional outdoor seating in warmer weather.
“We were negotiating to move into a larger space before COVID hit,” Freeman said. “It was a great location close to our current space. Now, I’m glad we didn’t get it. Now we’re looking at a space just one block away, [to move] as soon as business picks up again.”
Daniels adds, “Thankfully we didn’t have any high overhead [when the pandemic hit].”
Supplying cheesecakes for local restaurants had been a staple revenue source for the business, until all but one closed due to COVID. “But that one [restaurant] that’s still open has increased its orders, that’s been a nice surprise,” Freeman noted.
The couple remains optimistic the volume of their restaurant business will eventually return and even grow, as more restaurants reopen and their traffic picks up.
People still place orders for special events such as weddings, office parties and birthdays. Even though the numbers (attending these events) are smaller, people still want it to feel like a celebration.
There has definitely been a shift in the rhythm of the business since COVID.
Of course, their walk-in business dropped as well, so they creatively pivoted, increasing the focus on their delivery business.
“We knew people were still going to want our product,” Daniels said. “We were already using Delivery.com and Wichita-to-Go, but we added more third-party platforms, such as GrubHub and DoorDash. We brought them all in.”
Another profitable shift was adding the mini-cheesecakes to the delivery menu. “We had never done that before, but people seem to like it,” Freeman said. The mini- cheesecakes are available in boxes of six or 12, in all the same flavors as the larger cakes. Sometimes people first taste the mini then call to order full-sized cakes.
Their shifts and pivots paid off.
“Our revenues are about the same [as pre-COVID], just from different sources,” Daniels said. “Of course, we had hoped for an increase.”
Daniels and Freeman are staying flexible to make other changes.
“We’ve worked on improving our ability to make contact-free deliveries for people who are concerned about that,” Daniels said. “Sometimes when it’s a little warm, people will sit on the patio” outside the store.
The Wichita Cheesecake Company is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.