Pivoting from Cafe to Provisions: A COVID-19 Success Story

Libby Peck More Posts
Libby Peck
6 months ago
Pivoting from Cafe to Provisions: A COVID-19 Success Story

As restaurateurs in the U.S. waited with bated breath for answers on what to do and details of a stimulus package from Congress, some dove into action. Jason Hoy is one of those people.

Hoy is the owner of Tucker Silk Mill in Easton, Pennsylvania, an Australian-style cafe serving classic flat whites and a full menu of other coffee drinks alongside a “healthy-ish” menu of avocado toasts, salads, and house-made baked goods. 

As social distancing became less of a suggestion and more like the new normal, and state-mandated business closures spread across the country, Hoy realized that Tucker Silk Mill couldn’t operate as usual.

Think Fast, Act Local

The gravity of the situation set in when Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania, ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses in the state on March 16. Hoy realized that the people he employed and worked with every day, from chefs to baristas, would lose their jobs as a result. He needed to act, and fast.

Hoy spent two days preparing to pivot from an all-day cafe to a small grocery store that would benefit not only his bottom line, but also his community. He had an opportunity to act in the best interest of Easton and help his customers stay closer to home by coming to his cafe for groceries rather than venturing out to large, national chain stores.

Utilizing Toast’s Digital Ordering suite, Hoy could offer online ordering for customer pickup. The cafe could continue selling prepared items for take-out and could sell excess inventory that wasn’t used by his kitchen.

On March 18, Tucker Silk Mill was reborn as Tucker Provisions.

Prospering with Provisions

xtraCHEF spoke to Hoy on March 24, less than a week into his pivot to Tucker Provisions. He was happy to report that his updated concept is a surprising success.

Items that a lot of families would look for at a grocery store — like ground beef, lettuce, and toilet paper — are out of stock all over town, but Hoy is able to provide them. He’s also able to provide a generally safer experience than a big-box store could: By offering online ordering for pickup only, he can keep customer exposure to a minimum.

Hoy shared that the cash flow for his business was up by 25% over his best week operating solely as a cafe, given that as a casual spot, the usual customer check is about $20.

Extra Cash & a Free Tool from xtraCHEF

Another way that Hoy is generating cash for his business is through a new offering from xtraCHEF: xtraCASH.

xtraCASH allows operators to earn as much as 1% cash back on their food and disposables purchases by digitizing their invoices using xtraCHEF’s restaurant invoice processing technology. xtraCASH matches restaurant purchases to eligible manufacturer rebates for free. At a time when cash is critical for survival, xtraCASH makes it easy to turn invoice capture into extra cash.

Hoy is also saving time and money by utilizing Sync, xtraCHEF’s free data exchange between Toast and QuickBooks Online. With Sync, daily sales data captured in Toast is automatically passed from Toast to QuickBooks Online. After a simple, guided set-up process, sales data from Toast is mapped and posted to QuickBooks Online with no manual intervention.

Thanks to proactive efforts to protect his business along with unwavering support from his customers, he was able to hire back two employees. “We’ve gotten really lucky,” says Hoy.

Sharing the Success

But just because Tucker Provisions has been successful so far doesn’t mean Hoy has become complacent. He’s already looking for ways to utilize his concept to help support other small businesses in the Lehigh Valley.

The Nesting Box is a prime example. Based out of a farm in Kempton, PA, Hoy was already buying their eggs for the cafe’s “brekkie,” but since launching Provisions he has already had to double his usual inventory due to demand.

Hoy also stocks baked goods from The Modern Crumb, which operates out of the Easton Public Market, and breads from Matty’s Marvelous Makery, which utilizes a commissary space in Tatamy, PA. The apples available for sale are from Scholl Orchards out of Bethlehem, PA.

Looking and Moving Forward

According to Hoy, Tucker Provisions will likely continue in some form even after the outbreak ends. He’s already had strategic talks about reducing the number of seats in the cafe to make way for a shopping area, and is considering opening only for small, private dinners in the evening. 

By considering a permanent change to the Provisions model, inventory and stock will be more important than ever for Hoy. As a new xtraCHEF customer, he plans on spending time in the coming weeks configuring AP Management so he can have a fast, real-time understanding of what’s on hand as he scans invoices and updates item availability for online shoppers.

Hoy encourages all other restaurant operators feeling the strain of COVID-19 closures to consider a shift to the mini-market approach as he did. “All restaurants already have systems in place to do this quickly,” he shares, noting that the supply chain, cold food storage, and food safety knowledge are already there and ready to be used.

“A lot of restaurants are throwing up their arms, wondering what they’ll do. And other restaurants are figuring it out,” Hoy says. “Those are the spots that will survive this.”

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