April 3, 2020
The most challenging times bring out the greatest creativity. We are inspired to see how some of the most innovative leaders in the industry are forging the way. The longer the stay-at-home continues, the more creative we anticipate restaurateurs getting. There is no one right direction; this depends on your staff, your location, and your own situation. Catalog your resources, communicate with your team, consider what your community needs and identify what you can bring to the table.
Fine Dining from a Drive-Thru Window
“Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now,” the owners of Seattle's renowned Michelin one-star historic Canlis restaurant explained as they announced the transition to a multi-faceted approach geared at keeping workers employed and continuing to serve the community. This meant serving bagels and coffee at breakfast and converting the restaurant’s porte-cochere into a drive thru for burgers, veggie melts, the Canlis salad and ice cream sandwiches from 11am - 6pm and preparing a rotating selection of family meals to be delivered along with a bottle of wine by the restaurant’s waitstaff for dinner, which can even be accompanied by “Live-streaming the smooth sounds of the city’s finest dining room…” The restaurant is also offering CSA subscriptions services for fresh produce from their favorite farmers. No cash. No contact. No dress code.
Three Michelin Stars (and Cocktails!) in a Box
Before it cost around $300 per person to
get a taste of Chicago’s three Michelin starred Alinea, now you can get a taste of what their kitchen has to offer for $35 a person. It started with a variation on the restaurant's Beef Wellington dish with mashed potatoes and creme brûlée, which sold out within hours. The menu changes regularly, featuring comfort foods that translate well to carryout, and which can be accompanied by beer, wine from 3 price-tier categories, including reserve and ultra bottles, or one of the restaurant’s cocktails from cocktail kits which have proven so successful that they sold over $5,500 worth of the Margarita kit in the first few days following the city-wide closure. (Read more here.)
Call Your Mother, the best known bagelry in DC, is raising funds to support their staff with clever purchasable perks like a “cut to the front of the line” pass for a whole year for $2000 or to have a bagel sandwich named after you (you pick the fillings) for $1500 or a month of challah on every Friday for $200. You can also purchase lessons on how to make bagels, empanadas or even latte art. All proceeds go to support the hourly workers in the company. (Read more here).
Turning a New Page
When Juliet + Company restaurants in Boston (Juliet, Peregrine) were forced to shut their doors, they immediately turned a new page and launched a zine to offer advice for cooking in quarantine which quickly led to a channel streaming content on Instagram and YouTube offering instruction like how-to cocktail videos and other tips. While the content is all free, fans are encouraged to donate on Venmo, and the restaurant team is building lasting and trusting relationships with their fans.
The New Corner Market
Canela in San Francisco is offering all of
their signatures for eager fans looking to recreate the experience at home, in whichever way works best. Signature paella is now available for pick up, either hot and ready to eat, or in DIY paella kits to make it at home. Brunch boxes recreate the popular weekend meal any day of the week, feeding 2-3 people. Want access to some of their top of the line ingredients? They are partnering with Golden Gate Meat Co. to offer Butcher Boxes of individually wrapped meats to cook now or freeze, as well as offering both a fruit & veggie box for two and a provisions box featuring special ingredients from the pantry. Want to keep things simple with Spanish wine and cheese pairings? They have that too. Or want someone else to prepare a Passover meal? They have you covered. Flowers to dress up the passover table? They have a partner for that too!
Meals for Heroes
Up until now Sally, The Fresh Food Robot, made by Chowbotics, has been very popular in hospitals and universities where it provides 24/7 custom, made to order salads, snacks and bowls. There are over 100 robots deployed, with about a third located in hospitals. Now, in light of the Coronavirus, as many hospitals are forced to close down their salad bars, this service becomes even more appealing as Sally contains all ingredients inside sealed containers within the refrigerated robot, so there is greatly reduced risk of contamination. To support healthcare workers, Chowbotics is providing three Sally robots to three Bay Area hospitals, they have also launched a Meals for Heroes initiative offering healthcare workers and hospital staff deep discounts on their meals.
New York hotspots Wildair and Contra took two weeks to figure out how to make delivery work for them - and created the cool new Contrair. The culinary team started from scratch, creating a menu of dishes that do well after a cross-city ride on the back of a bike, and that after a brief spin in the microwave taste exactly the same as they did when they left the kitchen. While wine from the original restaurants is available for delivery, the team also developed new cocktails sold in 16 oz. bottles. Lest any of that be too serious, they’re making sure to have some fun with it, offering some dishes clearly inspired by childhood favorites like the “dirt cup” with pudding, cocoa crumble and gummy dinosaurs. (Read more here).
A New Brand Extension
Lazy Bear in San Francisco is a ticketed, multi-course concept that turned around and offered something new, different and yet completely still aligned with their concept. They carried through the campfire theme from their lounge and created Camp Commissary. All day offerings for different day-parts include coffee and pastries in the morning, sandwiches, soups and sweets in the afternoon, (and cocktails or wine of course) - all keeping with the “campfire commissary” theme. It isn’t the multi-course prix fixe dinner with meticulous cooking technique Lazy Bear is known for by any stretch, but this is what you might expect if the chef asked you to go camping. It’s all in their own unique style, with a casual concept that could foreseeably have a future even when the multi-course concept returns.
Farm to YOUR Table
While a visit to the bucolic Blue Hill at Stone Barns, NY is not feasible for everyone, and not even possible now, it is possible to get a bit of that farm fresh experience in your own home with the their build your own hotpot kit, featuring a fresh and fermented vegetables, whole grains, local meats and pastured eggs from Stone Barns. Freshly milled flatbread and pastries are also included. (It is also possible to donate a box to hospital workers).
Family Meals: Feeding Restaurant Worker Friends & Family
Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia started with the simple idea of helping feed restaurant workers just laid off from their jobs who didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Now The Lee Initiative: Restaurant Workers Relief Program, in partnership with Makers Mark, is turning restaurants around the country into relief centers to help support restaurant workers who have been laid off or are facing significant reductions in hours or pay, with food and supplies, offering to-go meals and boxes of goods to pick up and take home. (Read the full story here). Not only are they doing good, but they are keeping some staff employed as well.
Have you seen other business models you think we should add? Doing something unique that we can feature? Drop us a line!