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News / Business / Clark County Business

Working in Clark County: Sol Contreras, operations manager at Nom Nom Restaurant and Grill

By Lyndsey Hewitt, Columbian Staff writer, news assistant
Published: April 18, 2020, 5:00am
6 Photos
Nom Nom operations manager Sol Contreras wipes down the door handles as she opens up the restaurant at 801 C St. Nom Nom is still open for takeout and delivery orders.
Nom Nom operations manager Sol Contreras wipes down the door handles as she opens up the restaurant at 801 C St. Nom Nom is still open for takeout and delivery orders. (Photos by Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Approaching a month into a government-issued stay-at-home order, most of us, at this point, are aware of COVID-19’s impacts on local businesses.

Those that haven’t closed entirely are operating on minimal staff or working from home. Local restaurants are only offering delivery, takeout or curbside pickup. Local Thai and Vietnamese eatery Nom Nom is in the same boat. It’s operating on a skeleton crew of eight, about half of its typical staff.

“All of them are coming back once we open back up,” said Sol Contreras, the eatery’s operations manager.

Nom Nom is located directly next to Regal Cinemas, and a good portion of the restaurant’s dinner crowd came from patrons who were grabbing a bite before or after a movie. Now that people can’t go to the theater, that foot traffic has disappeared, along with all the regulars who worked in nearby offices and ate there on their lunch breaks.

Nom Nom Restaurant and Grill

801 C St., Vancouver.

360-718-7360; www.nomnomnw.com

Number of employees: 17 typically; but down to 8 due to COVID-19 layoffs.

Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook: Employment of food service managers is projected to grow 11 percent through 2028. “Those with several years of work experience in food service and a degree in hospitality, restaurant, or food service management will have the best job opportunities,” the bureau reports. The average hourly wage for food service managers in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore., metro area is $28.44 per hour or $59,160 annually.

Contreras, 22, was born in Longview and has lived in Vancouver most of her life, she said. She frequented Nom Nom while she was a student at Clark College, eventually asking if they had any job openings. Hired 2 1/2 years ago, she was promoted after a couple of months. As the operations manager, she oversees staff, places order with merchants and vendors, works on scheduling and helps as a server. During the pandemic, Contreras has mainly been helping take calls and assemble take-out orders.

We caught up with Contreras to see how things are holding up at Nom Nom.

What have things been like so far this week?

They’re pretty good. Today (a Wednesday) was our busiest day this week so far, so that’s good. We’re still doing our full regular menu. We do lunch portions in the afternoon and dinner at dinner time, so everything is still the same.

How have things been different since the pandemic started?

The main thing that changed a lot is just the fact that we pretty much cut over half of our staff, so only four of us have been working (each shift), not even full time. It’s been such a different adjustment to not have that lunch rush that we had every single day. We’re so used to being so fast paced during lunch and dinner. And with the theater closed, too, it’s been very slow and not very much to do. Just not having the regulars that we had come in everyday and usually support us has been the biggest change.

How are you handling this personally?

It’s been an adjustment for me. The reason I was working here is because it was so busy and fast paced, so the time went by fast. Lately, it’s been hard to keep our time occupied. I’m still happy I still even have a chance to go to work. If I was at home, I would feel a lot worse. Just not seeing the people I usually see — it feels like a totally different job sometimes. Also like the amount of work hours we have has been reduced a lot. I’m used to working longer days; my days have been cut in half.

Are you still getting business at all, or is it pretty bad?

We’re still getting enough to get us by and keep us open. We have our regulars who will order delivery to support us. A lot of people have been ordering to-go. It’s not what we’re used to, but it’s not horrible.

What would you say to people who are worried about delivery?

We’re really accommodating to whatever people want to do. We constantly sanitize everything. We have Clorox and hand sanitizer for everyone. All staff use gloves when we’re handling payments and food. Whenever a customer wants to order take-out, they can stay in their car; they just pay over the phone and we don’t have to have contact at all. When we do delivery, we just do drop off and leave it at the door.

What does your future look like?

I went to school for phlebotomy at Clark College. I’m still finishing courses for that, so I’m planning to start working at a clinic soon. This is just for the meantime. I’m trying to save up and work as much as I can. I want to be a radiologist, so I’m starting my clinical career with phlebotomy and will try to work my way up.


Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Hope Martinez:
hope.martinez@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

What would you want readers to know?

I would just say that you know every order does help us a lot. Anybody who does orders through anything – directly through us or the apps we’re on; every order is helpful. Our regulars are still checking on us. It lightens up our spirits.

Columbian Staff writer, news assistant