The COVID-19 pandemic has forced folks to stay home, which, in turn, has forced the restaurant industry to make some difficult choices. A lot of those choices were tough to swallow, but some creative choices have recently caught our attention.

From completely changing their concept like Canlis in Seattle to philanthropic efforts like JosĂ© AndrĂ©s’ quick work to distribute meals to those in need, plenty of big brands in the industry have sprung into action.

Food & Wine’s YouTube channel has a few such videos highlighting restaurants that are adapting. One such video showcases some of the ways a fine dining seafood restaurant in Alabama was following some COVID response restaurant best practices on how to maximize their inventory and make the most of a tough situation.

Below, we offer a roundup of ten creative ways restaurateurs have chosen to stay connected with their customers and adapt during quarantine.

 1. The Philanthropy Flip

Nick Wiseman, owner of fast-casual concept Little Sesame out of Washington, D.C., launched Meals for the City in partnership with non-profit Dreaming Out Loud. With so many Washingtonians living in food deserts, Wiseman converted his Little Sesame locations into community kitchens to produce meals for people in need.

To date, Meals for the City has provided over 10,000 meals to hungry members of the community.

2. Doomsday Dinner Party

Ardyn, a small seasonal American restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village, didn’t want to pivot too far away from its ethos. Rather than reworking their menu, owners Adam Bordonaro and Ryan Lory decided to offer a “doomsday dinner party” for customers to bring the fine dining experience home.

Customers can get lobster, octopus, and wagyu ribeye delivered by Ardyn staff wearing bunny masks. All of the meals are par-cooked and delivered in separate aluminum tins, so all they have to do is finish cooking, plate the dishes, and enjoy. Lory considers it to be “Blue Apron on steroids.”

3. The Grocery Pivot

Despite grocery stores being one place that people can go, many consumers have opted to order their groceries in. And restaurants are tapping into that demand by repackaging staples and sundries and offering them for take-out and delivery.

We recently brought you a COVID-19 restaurant success story of xtraCHEF customer Tucker Silk Mill, which found success in complementing its standard fare with provisions. Expect to see more and more restaurants converting to corner stores and bodegas while the quarantine is still in effect — even major chains like Panera and Subway are getting in on the trend.

4. The Seasonal Supplier

A Peace a Pizza franchisee in Catonsville, MD got creative around the Easter holiday and decided to sell Easter Egg Coloring Kits. The package, priced at $12, came with pre-hardboiled eggs, dye, stickers, and handwritten instructions on the best approach for egg decorating.

At a time when kids (and parents) are stuck at home without school or playdates, this savvy business owner successfully seized upon a fleeting seasonal opportunity that was fun for the whole family.

Easter Egg Coloring Kit

5. Delivering Value to Families

Family-style catering options are not only smart, but practical for families looking for a low-effort way to put food on the table. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) is lending a hand to families of 4 through their new offering, Lettuce Take Care of You. For $150, customers will be able to receive 3 different meals for 4 people, available for either curbside pickup or delivery.

With over 120 different restaurants, Lettuce Take Care of You ensures variety at a time when many people are getting sick of their tried-and-true, home cook recipes.

6. Breaking Bread

If you’ve been on social media lately, it’s been next to impossible to ignore a very popular quarantine activity: making bread. However, stores and a struggling food supply chain are struggling to keep up with the demand. People across the country are reporting trouble finding both yeast and flour.

Luckily, regular bakers are coming to the rescue. Mighty Bread Company out of Philadelphia not only offers an online store with fresh loaves, sandwiches, and sweet treats, but also multiple types of flour. And if you’re still having trouble sourcing yeast, Mighty Bread Company owner Chris DiPiazza has offered advice on how to make your own sourdough starter.

7. No-Craft Cocktails

Not the DIY type? Emergency ordinances and a rejiggering of off-premise liquor laws have enabled restaurants to sell bottles of wine and beer and cocktails in sealed packaging. This can be especially helpful for restaurants that make the lion’s share of their profits off of liquor sales.

Take HunkyDory in Brooklyn, NY as an example. They’re currently offering eight different cocktails in one or four servings to be pre-ordered for contactless delivery. HunkyDory is also sharing recipes from its kitchen along with cocktail pairings for when customers feel a bit more inspired to get behind the bar themselves.

8. Homemade Bar Kits

Some bars and restaurants are going a step beyond sharing recipes. xtraCHEF customer Silver Light Tavern is one of them. Owner Michael Krawiec has kept his doors closed during the crisis but is selling Homemade Home Bar Kits to keep his business going. All proceeds are going to a Grand Reopening Party, where Silver Light Tavern can celebrate a return to normalcy with its regulars and other supportive customers.

silver light tavern bar kit

Krawiec’s kit includes everything you need “to drink like a professional.” To truly up your mixology game, combine your new hardware with an app like Cocktail Flow that creates recipes based on the inventory of booze and mixers you have on hand.

9. Retailing Rare Bottles

xtraCHEF customer Datz Restaurant Group is not only an early adopter of xtraCASH, our latest offering that puts manufacturer rebates into operators’ pockets, but they also garnered some well-deserved attention for another creative take on generating cash. The Tampa-based group announced in late March that they would sell their most valuable item in the restaurant’s inventory: Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old Bourbon.

The Pappy sold to a generous Florida veteran for double the $20,000 asking price. Owners Roger and Suzanne Perry will use the proceeds to help both the restaurant group as well as its network of employees.

Other restaurants are taking a similar approach by putting rare wines up for sale.

10. A Special Delivery

Exotic dancers work for tips, just like most restaurant servers. But a major difference is that dancers are considered independent contractors, so they aren’t eligible for the same unemployment benefits that laid off restaurant workers can pursue.

Shon Boulden, owner of Lucky Devil Lounge, initially joked that he should offer “food with a side of boobs” to support his dancers after his business was required to close. But his followers and Lounge customers were so enthralled by the joke that it became a reality: Boober Eats, now known as Lucky Devil Eats.

The service offers all of the club’s standard fare, plus a $30 charge for the topless delivery. We’ll let you Google the proof yourself.

Is your restaurant taking a unique approach to stay open during the coronavirus crisis?

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