My first visit with Friend & Foe Board Game Café was in mid-March with a group of friends. Our hangouts had usually consisted of either a movie night or, more commonly, a game night. It was our go-to activity. By the end of the night, we had grown evolving species in Evolution and built stained glass windows in Sagrada. We had found games we didn’t know existed, like one based on Saturday Night Live, and had discovered variations on personal favorites like One Night Ultimate Werewolf. We were all set to come back a week later for round two.
The business hit its six-month anniversary in April. Since opening, it had garnered enough attention to find some nights with a full house, even having to turn some customers away because the space had been filled.
When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in restrictions on business operations, the game changed for Friend & Foe Board Game Café, much like it did for many businesses in Collin County.
“We were on the verge of starting to break even and even make a profit six months in, which is crazy for restaurants in general,” says Corey Goodwin, one of Friend & Foe’s three operating owners.
It seemed they had played their cards correctly until the ultimate challenge landed face-up on the table. Since then, the three operating owners have played a sort of Tetris, trying to make the pieces they’ve been given fit into a new frame.
As the pandemic resulted in restrictions, the Café had to transition its focus more to delivery and to-go orders. It introduced a game rental option allowing customers to take games home, as well as adding a "donate a meal” program to get food to local healthcare workers and first responders.
Since the order allowing restaurants and some other businesses in Texas to open at limited capacity went into effect May 1, the owners have used a reservation-only system for dining in, allowing customers to come in, have a meal and play games for up to three hours.
“Almost everything we do at this point is all experimental,” Goodwin says.
Customers can pay for more time, but the limit gives staff a chance to clean a used table every few hours. Goodwin says they are wearing masks when interacting with customers or each other. They’ve brought in an air purifier to help the cleaning process at night. They have hand sanitizer and hand wipes for customers to use, and any game that has been played has to sit aside for 24 to 36 hours before it can be used again.
Through the trajectory of COVID-19, the fledgling business built mainly on the idea of people coming in and spending time with other human beings has had to rely more on delivery and pickup orders, which Goodwin says declined when restaurants were allowed to reopen at limited capacity. The Café is operating at about 20% of what it usually does.
“This completely flipped our business model,” Goodwin says.
He has kept in contact with other business owners who are facing the same situation in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and around the country. “Everybody’s planning for the next day,” he says, “and doesn’t know what to do after that. It’s good to know that what we’re going through, it isn’t because we are young or a young business. It’s just, like, nobody had planned for a pandemic, and so everybody’s kind of figuring that out.”
In the midst of the global pandemic, they’re still looking towards the future. A nearby spot has opened up, and they’re discussing the chance of moving into the bigger space. They’re not overly optimistic, Goodwin says, but they’re acting as if the business will be able to grow.
“I think because we’re young and we don’t know what we’re doing yet, it will help in the long run if we end up making it through all of this,” Goodwin says, “because then we can just be like, ‘Look, guys. We went through a pandemic. We can do this.’”