We’ve found ourselves living in a “new normal” these past few months, and everyone has had to shift their focus, priorities, and businesses to weather the storm. The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with many businesses shuttering, employees laid off, and the culture of dining out brought to a screeching halt. No one can escape the impact.Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Indeed, during times of change and struggle, you will always find innovative individuals who are inspiring others through their creativity. The restaurant industry is no exception.
FEEDING THOSE IN NEED
Take New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, for example. The elite restaurant, which held the title as the number one restaurant in the world in 2017 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, was forced to let go of most of its employees and go back to the drawing board. Chef and owner Daniel Humm transformed the once prestigious and swanky restaurant into a commissary kitchen with the help of Rethink Food, a nonprofit that uses excess food from restaurants, grocery stores, and corporate kitchens to create nutritious meals for those in need, and now produces close to 3,000 meals a day to feed NYC’s hungry.
Similarly, Michael Lennox, CEO of Electric Hospitality, which houses Atlanta’s Golden Eagle, Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, and Muchacho restaurants, founded the nonprofit ATLFAMILYMEAL, which helps to feed, nourish, and support hospitality workers during and immediately after the pandemic. Since its inception a couple months ago, other local restaurants and chefs have also gotten involved, and together they have successfully delivered more than 41,500 meals to hospitality workers in need.
Nearby, Biltong Bar at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta is now utilizing its kitchen to prepare meals for frontline workers at three Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campuses. As a part of Frontline Dine, a new initiative from True Story Brands and Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, the restaurant group supplies hearty and nutritious meals to healthcare workers and has delivered over 10,000 family style meals.
Popular restaurant Avocaderia,which has three New York City locations, has done a complete 180; instead of attempting to maintain their presence as a restaurant, they have opened Friendly Bodega. Bodegas are a staple in New York City and this new iteration leverages the restaurant’s past relationships with suppliers to provide the community with quality food essentials, such as produce, proteins, flour, bread and local cheeses, as well as essential items like face masks and gloves. The new bodega keeps Avocaderia employees employed, and 100% of the profits will be donated to the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Orders can be placed each week by Friday at 8pm to ensure Sunday delivery to many of New York’s boroughs.
In a similar vein, Atlanta’s Hampton + Hudson has transformed from a restaurant and bar into the Hampton + Hudson General Store. While their elevated pub food is still available for pick-up and delivery, the community can shop online for items like the much-coveted toilet paper, face masks, paper towels, eggs, milk, and even local farmer boxes with fresh produce and recipes. The store is open daily from 12-8pm, and customers in the community can pick up their items curbside or get them delivered.
Greenville, South Carolina’s Methodical Coffee is assisting customers with more than just curbside pick-up. Not only can local caffeine addicts get items like cold brew coffee, apple pie, farm fresh eggs, and more delivered to their home, but those who are forced to take matters into their own hands (i.e. make their own coffee) can benefit from the company’s new virtual home barista classes. The affordable $10 classes, which have received rave reviews, share lessons on how to brew using a variety of machines, from the French press to Chemex to the aeropress, as well as how to make shaken cold coffee, cold brew, and even Japanese iced coffee.
Manhattan’s Ruffian Wine Bar, which has been deemed one of the best bars in America by Esquire Magazine, has developed multiple ways for foodies to entertain themselves at home, from their Ruff Nite Cooking Classes to their weekly online wine classes. Their downloadable sessions, available at RuffianNYC.com, are both playful and informative. For example, Secondhand Sourdoughinstructs home bakers what to do with their leftover bread dough, teaching ‘students’ how to make okonomiyaki, roti, and malfatti, while Go Shuck Yourselfgives a lesson on shucking oysters, along with a fabulous mignonette recipe. Also, Ruffian’s online wine classes run the gamut, with topics ranging from Oak Chardonnay: The Wine Style We Love to Hate to Love toAustrian Wine & The Rebirth of Cool toBlind Tasting: Not As Douchey As It Sounds. Locals can shop Ruffian’s best wines for delivery, whether they’re looking to score just one bottle, or discover an array of Fancy A** Orange Wine in a four pack.
BRINGING FUN TO YOUR HOME
Instilling playfulness and happiness into our lives right now is something many of us have struggled with. Fortunately, many hospitality workers are aiming to brighten up your day with inspiring and innovative ways to serve you while maintaining social distance. Bigsby’s Folly, located in Denver’s RiNo Art District, has always been about connecting and experiences, so they knew they wanted to do more than just take-out and delivery. Even though they were forced to make the difficult decision to lay off the majority of their staff, the team behind Bigsby’s Folly wanted to keep the joy of serving others alive. The owners now dress up in a different costume every day (thanks to neighborhood costume donations), bringing smiles to their customers’ faces and keeping their spirits high. (They’ve even inspired some of their customers to come pick up their food in costume, too!) They’re also giving away free pints of wine to all healthcare heroes who stop by. (Follow along in their journey by tracking #WhatsChadWearing on social media.)
New York City’s ARDYN has also made splashy headlines with its extravagant Doomsday Dinner Party. With a fun sprinkling of dark humor comes a seven-course chef ’s tasting menu that comes ready to assemble, heat, and plate, along with detailed instructions, YouTube videos, and even a music playlist to add to the dinner party ambiance. For an additional fee, you can add cocktail and wine pairings to your feast. And since it wouldn’t be a spectacle without a little something extra, the meals are delivered by two tuxedo-clad people wearing bunny masks. Kitschy, certainly. Entertaining? Definitely. “We did not offer delivery and rarely sent food to go. We knew we would need to pivot or fall into a flat spin,” explains Chef Adam Bordonaro, who also serves as co-owner. “The guests who have experienced this have been surprised at how easy it is to prepare and plate, as well as the high quality they were able to achieve in their homes. The ARDYN at Home concept is not a stop gap solution getting us through the pandemic, but a unique and well thought out brand of our business,” he continues. They are currently delivering to New York City, New Jersey, Westchester, the Hamptons, Long Island, and Greenwich, with plans to grow into other markets.
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