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Inspirational and innovative ways restaurants are responding to the Coronavirus

Photo by Jason Weingardt

Restaurants and bars are some of the hardest hit by the Coronavirus, but they have also been some of the most creative when it comes to staying connected with their communities, from “emergency taco kits” to virtual tip jars.

Here are a few of the most innovative and refreshing ways we’ve seen restaurants adapt their offerings for the current environment.

We also published another version of this post, highlighting the ways other types of businesses are connecting with their customers, from online art parties to pet grooming tips.

Unique takeout offerings

Los Angeles restaurant Guerrilla Tacos offers Emergency Taco Kits, including five pounds of roasted chicken, five pounds of carne asada, a pint of red salsa, a pint of green salsa, tortillas, onions, cilantro, and rice and beans—plus a 30-pack of eggs and a roll of toilet paper.

Photo from Guerrilla Tacos

New York’s Junzi Kitchen is serving family-sized portions in recyclable and stackable containers for easy refrigerator storage.

Coffee and doughnut shop Cranky Al’s, located outside of Milwaukee, presents the Kids Quarantine Box, a do-it-yourself doughnut decoration kit, including six plain raised doughnuts, chocolate and vanilla icing, M&M’s, oreos, and rainbow sprinkles.

Photo from Cranky Al’s

Da Toscano in New York has created an entire “da Toscano at home!” menu, including pasta kits with four servings of spaghetti and quarts of sauce (meat ragu and marinara options), plus drink options like the Classic G&T for Two.

GenuWine Arizona Wine Bar is pre-packaging cheese boards to-go that include a specialty cheese, pita, and salami, along with wine bottle pick-ups.

To-go cheeseboard with bottle of wine
Photo from GenuWine Arizona Wine Bar

ARDYN in New York City is getting creative with its “Doomsday Dinner Party”—an upscale, five-course meal to enjoy at home, complete with drink pairings and a playlist to set the mood.

Ridges Churro Bar in Los Angeles is delivering churro sundaes, containing churros, ice cream, nutella glaze, caramel, peanuts, cereal, and rainbow sprinkles.

Happy Camper in Chicago debuts the Happy Camper “Basic” Survival Kit: two medium pizzas, a 12-pack of Basic Hard Seltzer, a boat of ranch, a boat of cookie dough, and a roll of toilet paper—all profits for carry-out and delivery go to its employee emergency fund. Two bonus initiatives: An online bingo tournament with $20 entry donations going to the employee fund, and if you bring in certain supplies that are needed by local medical workers, then you’ll get 50 percent off your takeout order and Happy Camper delivers the supplies to hospitals.

The Happy Camper “Basic” Survival Kit
Photo from Happy Camper

My Make Studio in Denver offers do-it-yourself cupcake decorating kits, with themes like Easter, animals, and flowers.

Expanding outside of your core business

Award-winning Seattle restaurant Canlis has transformed its traditional fine-dining atmosphere into an approachable, multi-faceted takeout service: 

  • The Bagel Shed, offering bagels, spreads, breakfast sandwiches, and coffee
  • Drive On Thru, a pop-up, drive-through serving burgers, veggie melts, and more
  • Family Meal, which delivers a home-cooked dinner and bottle of wine to your doorstep
  • CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), selling ingredients at-cost, straight from the farmers

Zinc Cafe in southern California expanded beyond takeout and delivery and into the grocery space with the sale of pasta, nuts, herbs, milk, and more.

Chef Michael Mina has opened the Mina Family Kitchen, offering takeout and delivery plus Family Meal, free meals for Mina Group employees, and 20 percent off for all bar and restaurant industry employees (just show a recent pay stub when picking up).

Hide-A-Way Buffalo Grill is a third-generation family owned restaurant that has seen an influx in takeout orders the past few weeks, and when the local groceries were out of meat, they sold some of their own stock to customers in need. They are also becoming a one-stop shop, selling beer and lotto tickets now too.

Spirit of York, a downtown Toronto distillery, known for making vodka and gin, is converting a part of its operation into producing hand sanitizer.

The Slice pizza app is partnering with Slice Out Hunger and Pizza to the Polls on Pizza vs. Pandemic, a program that feeds health care workers while supporting local businesses. Customers donate to the cause, and 100 percent of the funds are used at small shops on the Slice app to deliver pizza to hospitals, shelters, and clinics. You can even visit their website to nominate care centers that the program should deliver to.

Photos from Slice

Chef José Andrés has repurposed many of his New York and Washington, DC restaurants into community kitchens, like Mercado Little Spain, where the kitchen operates out of the restaurant’s side doors, serving affordable plates of the day available for takeout.

Uma Casa, Myriad Gastropub, and Cockscomb in San Francisco shifted parts of their operations to provide meals for workers at local hospitals.

Virtual networking and customer interaction

Joe Baker sells his own baked goods and posts his recipes online. He’s also recently expanded his offerings, alongside his son Blais, to host “Quarantine Cooking With Joe the Baker.” This Texan duo makes kid-friendly recipes and focuses on food items that may be in high demand right now, like dinner rolls and pizza dough.

Family-owned Roho Kitchen in Davie, Fla. normally specializes in group cooking classes, but recently, they’ve brought their specialties online, from chef Q&As and behind-the-scene tours to online demos.

Brian Jupiter, executive chef at Ina Mae Tavern in Chicago, hosted a live online cooking demo on Instagram, featuring his Nashville hot chicken po’boy, and made all of the ingredients available for pickup.

Image from Ina Mae Tavern

Chicago tiki bar Lost Lake strives to help support its employees—who are currently out of work—with a virtual tip jar. Patrons can donate virtual tips in exchange for an exclusive newsletter: “Slide us a virtual tip, and we will sign you up for our brand new quarantine-friendly newsletter! A twice-weekly delivery straight to your inbox with cocktails to make at home, recipes from our kitchen, Q+As with Lost Lakers, and maybe even a crossword. Every cent will go directly to our team.”

Gift card sale and strategy

Departed Soles Brewery in Jersey City, N.J. regularly sells branded retail items on their site, but it has also added digital gift cards for other local businesses in the neighborhood.

Beckett’s Table in Phoenix is selling gift cards, and as an added bonus, when you buy a $100 gift card, you get a $25 bonus as a thank you.

Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco is going a similar route, offering 25% off gift cards alongside its heartfelt note of appreciation for the community.

An array of online programs have also sprung up recently to aggregate and promote gift cards in regions across the country.

  • hosts links to the websites of San Francisco Bay Area restaurants, directly connecting customers to a place where they can buy gift cards for their favorite dining establishments. Both customers and restaurants can add restaurants to the site.
  • Help Main Street is doing the same for restaurants across the country—the majority in San Francisco and New York—sharing details of how to buy gift cards from more than 14,000 restaurants. You can search by city or ZIP code, and both customers and restaurants can add suggestions.
  • Keep Calm and Nom Nom is a resource in Richmond, Va. dedicated to connecting customers to breweries and restaurants. The listings are grouped by area, and anyone can email to add an establishment.

This information was accurate at the time of publication, but because things are constantly changing, we suggest checking with the business directly regarding any information listed here.

Want to share your own business story or one of a business around you?

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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

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