LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Throughout the pandemic, many restaurants closed their doors for good, and some even made the transition from brick and mortar to food trucks to save money. But one Arkansas woman went the other way, starting as a food truck amid the trying times, then growing into a franchise.

You could say there is a method to the madness of opening a restaurant, and some would say Maryann Strange is mad for opening not one but two restaurants during a global pandemic.

When opening the business, YGFBF Kitchen Restaurant & Catering, Strange noted that she started with just two employees. However, that number quickly started to grow.

“With the Conway location, we started off with 10 to 12 employees and this location will probably have 37 to 38 employees,” she explained from her second spot, which will open in west Little Rock in a spot previously housing Bone’s Chophouse on Rahling Road.

The quick expansion definitely turned up the heat on the business side of things.

“It wasn’t easy. It was kind of like, ‘Whoa, I’ve got to hire more people. I have to pay more rent. I have to buy more food,’” Strange said.

Those “whoas,” felt by many others in the restaurant business, were echoed by data according to economist Michael Pakko.

“The supply chain issues are affecting the underlying costs of restaurants,” Pakko explained, noting the importance now of knowing how to cater to the consumer. “I think the ones that are surviving today are the ones that are the most savvy at bringing value to the delivery of the food to the customer.”

But what makes YGFBF Kitchen so successful?

“I think it’s a combination of having a good quality product people who actually support you and actually being a manager or a chef that is personable with your employees,” Pakko said.

Having a good quality product isn’t the only thing that is keeping Strange’s business afloat. Some of the secret sauce for the businesswoman is her set of savvy business skills.

“You listen to these economists that say there is no end in sight for when food costs will go down,” she said. “So what do I sell if I can’t get chicken at a good price? What can I substitute so it’s just about trying to pivot from things that are already going on?”

Every day Strange re-evaluates costs, and she said she will even switch up the menu to make it most cost-effective.

“I mean, I’m a researcher. I’m a Googler, I Google a lot, like what can I substitute without reducing the quality of the food,” she explained.

At the end of the day, when Strange reflects on what got her here, it makes all the stress worth it. “I mean I’ve got a really good support system. My husband, he pushes me. My children, they say ‘Mom, we got you if there is anything we need to do,’” she said. “They are really understanding.”