Restaurant success stories to inspire your reopening

Alex Woodward
Alex is a Growth Marketing Manager at Snagajob, where she works with sales to help connect businesses with the right workers. Her first hourly job was as a barista at Caribou Coffee.

Restaurant success stories to inspire your reopening

Coronavirus has already changed the face of the service industry, but restaurants are determined to find a way to continue operating. According to our research, the majority of businesses have changed their operations to suit the lockdown lifestyle, an amount that will only grow as restaurants discover more innovative ways to operate safely.

That’s why, as states start to relax their restrictions, we’re starting to get a glimpse of what restaurant life will be life post-coronavirus. Through a combination of innovative ideas and technical know-how, restaurants across the country are coming up with exciting ways to keep cooking.

New ways of operating

While many restaurants are finding it hard to adapt to the sudden change in operations, some establishments are finding innovative ways to continue offering their services while still supporting their local community.

Around this time in any normal year, Medium Rare in Bethesda, Maryland, would be flooded with reservations from families and friends celebrating college graduation. Knowing that the class of 2020 wouldn’t get to attend a formal graduation ceremony due to social distancing requirements, the restaurant decided to offer graduates a chance to celebrate properly. 

Medium Rare put together “The Grad Mobile”, a truck complete with an extendable stage, podium, and a commencement speech from a dean-for-hire, all so that seniors could still enjoy a graduation experience. Starting at $250 dollars, families could book a slot, including a 30-minute ceremony and a socially-distanced meal, complete with cake. The idea wasn’t only a clever business idea, but also a fundraiser: so far they’ve raised over $25,000 to feed the elderly and first responders.

Planning for reopening

Outside of new services, restaurants are also looking for new ideas on how to keep customers and staff safe once they’ve officially reopened. Operating safely in a post-lockdown world is going to completely change how restaurants manage their business, and many restaurants are already concerned about how they will maintain their profit margin in a socially-distanced environment.

Some restaurant owners are turning to technology to help mitigate the threat of infection. Stuart Lane, in Washington, D.C., says that on top of more conventional precautions like staggering staff start times and providing them with PPE, his restaurant, Spinasse, has invested in an ultraviolet air scrubber to decontaminate the air customers will breathe in their dining room. Even with this rather costly solution, Lane isn’t planning to fully reopen once the state permits him to: “My gut is to wait a week or two. Figure it out from there and limp along.”

In yet another change from the norm, COVID-19 seems to have spelled the end for the shared menu. Thankfully, this challenge also has a technological solution, and it’s a lot simpler than a UV scrubber. Virtual menus, accessible on mobile devices, are becoming a popular alternative to shared menus. Kenny and Ziggy’s, a New York-style deli in Houston, opted for a virtual menu available on their website rather than printing thousands of one-use paper menus, saving time, money and the environment all at once.

Serving during the lockdown

Planning your reopening strategy might be a good idea, but in some states, reopening is still a way down the road. Some restaurant owners can’t wait that long; they have customers to serve and time to serve them. It’s for that reason that so many establishments are figuring out how to operate as normal—or close to normal—right now.

That’s certainly the case for Henry Molina and Margaret Stanton, who just opened their Chinese restaurant Good and Nice in Silver Lake, LA, during the lockdown. “We did not plan on opening our restaurant in a pandemic,” they say, but after losing their restaurant jobs they decided to open up the Chinese eatery they’ve been dreaming of for years.

The key to operating during a pandemic, according to them, is organizing your cooking around delivery. They began with food that was easy to cook and serve quickly, made with flavors that would set during the 30-minute delivery period, all of which was seasoned and flavored in advance; no tasting while you’re cooking if you’ve got a face mask on. Once they’d opened, they found that demand was huge, and have been working 14 hour days to satisfy hungry customers ever since.

If you’re in the restaurant industry, times may seem tough now, but we hope these stories have inspired you to get back out there and do what you love. For more information and helpful tips, visit our COVID-19 resource page.