With the coronavirus still an active threat to the health and safety of the populace, many industries are suffering from the resulting effects. Now, more than ever, is the time restaurants need to be aggressively innovating to keep up with the changing times. No restaurant will come out of this pandemic unscathed, but they can reduce the impact significantly if they find ways to innovate and adapt to the current circumstances.

How have some restaurants successfully innovated to thrive?

Many restaurants have taken it unto themselves to turn their dining rooms into mini-grocery stores. It started out as a way for them to rid themselves of excess food when no customers were patronizing them. They didn’t want all their produce and ingredients to go to waste.

Now, many of them are allowing customers to buy groceries that may be more difficult to find at conventional grocery stores like eggs and milk and fresh vegetables. They also stepped up to help their communities by delivering groceries to anyone who needed them.

Many restaurants have turned their business into mostly delivery and have seen incredible success through this method. Most still allow some dining guests, but their primary source of income right now if from their delivery services. Some are even offering a sort of produce box option for their customers. Greenhouses and vegetable/herb fields haven’t stopped producing in the face of the pandemic, so there is somewhat of a surplus that must be distributed or allowed to spoil.

A specific example of this practice is when “Ian Beger and executive chef and food and beverage director Christopher Brugman started assembling them into CSA-style produce boxes, starting at $25 per week for, a pound of lettuce and an 8-ounce clamshell of microgreens. For $250, customers got greens and other vegetables, herbs, tomatoes and other fruit, edible flowers, coffee beans, preserves and seeds for customers to plant in their own gardens.” They keep whatever allows them to break even and all surplus profits are allocated The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Other innovative suggestions

  • Restaurant chefs can offer online cooking lessons, providing the ingredients for a set fee(this can be done for individuals, families, or large groups)
  • Wine tastings where the wines and accompanying foods are shipped to customers and they all have a Skype/Zoom meeting to discuss and interact
  • Offer meal-prep boxes with all ingredients needed as well as the corresponding recipes included

An example of excellent innovation for a restaurant is the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Restaurants are really in the business of connecting people, and helping people have unique experiences, so that’s what they did. They held wine pairings on Zoom with many people joining. They got to experience that together even though quarantine was still holding strong.

Now is the time for restaurants to really put their time and maximum effort into innovating. If restaurant owners refuse to innovate and find alternative ways to get their products to their customers, they’re going to sink- maybe even before the pandemic is over. Quarantine has changed the game and everyone needs to keep up to survive; or even get ahead of the curve!