West Coast Prime Meats in Brea lost most of its customers and employees to COVID-19 measures and effects—then began to switch up its business model.

The supplier of fine cuts of beef to higher-end restaurants first “scrambled to divert inbound orders from Midwest suppliers [and] moved inventory to the freezer while … making sure we kept stock on hand for essential business customers; retailers, healthcare facilities, military, online,” and so on, company President Nathan Bennett told the Business Journal.

“This has hit us hard,” Bennett said. “For good reason, the government essentially shut down 80% of our customers overnight” then the company cut 60% of its staff with both layoffs and furloughs and cut costs “where we could” to adjust to “minimal sales volumes.”

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West Coast ranked No. 9 on the Business Journal’s September list of the fastest-growing large private companies in OC with $157 million in annual sales, a 49% two-year growth rate, and 240 employees. It was founded by Craig Nickoloff and Bill Hustedt, who started and sold the Claim Jumper chain.

Next steps were common to businesses: work from home and social distancing in the office, as well as “aggressive sanitation protocols well above and beyond” USDA regulations.

Bennett also went to bat with state and federal legislators to get funds to help restaurants.

“Thinking takeout and delivery will keep a restaurant open is not realistic,” he said, arguing for stronger help now, specifically, funding for what he says coronavirus will cost now, and when it’s over, including what he sees on the way in his industry: “the new sanitized and safe restaurant experience” with tougher cleaning, employee screening, seating capacity limits and other possible changes.

West Coast also began to bid for more retail business and “were able to launch our ecommerce platform basically overnight” for will-call orders curbside and “testing home delivery in Orange County.”

Bennett said, “this is peanuts compared to restaurants being open but will help keep the lights on.”

Go here for more updates on how OC companies are responding to coronavirus.

For ongoing, in-depth coverage of coronavirus effects on OC businesses, see the Monday print edition of the Business Journal.