COVID-19 hit the US restaurant industry like an unforgiving tsunami, and in the past three weeks alone, led to a loss of $25 billion and left more than 3 million workers unemployed, according to the National Restaurant Association. And while many restaurants have permanently closed, the NRA is also reporting that 54% of operators have temporarily changed their business models to off-premise.
Those who remain open, particularly those who have robust beverage programs, are finding that creativity, quick pivoting, a savvy use of technology and leaning into their local communities are essential tools that are keeping the lights on.
Sales of alcohol have skyrocketed over the last few weeks in the United States, and restaurants offering easy beverage options, sometimes on their own and sometimes, to go along with their food pickups, are seeing a dramatic response.
Many jurisdictions require restaurants to sell food along with alcohol.
“’Pivot’ used to be a basketball term, but now I’ve adopted it as my mantra,” said Joe Printz, owner of DVine Bar and DVine Pie in Sparkill, N.Y. “And as the information constantly changes, we’ve had to reinvent the dining experience to take away and curbside pickup.” Most of his staff have gone on unemployment, but he’s kept a core team on to continue operating.
At his fine-dining concept, DVine Bar, Printz quickly reduced his prices and upped the entrée portions to spark interest. Cocktails are now being sold in quart containers, yielding four drinks, for $30, and since he also owns the wine shop next door, guests can simply order bottles and pick them up along with their food.
Printz has also been making soup and meals for local health workers.
“My advice to anyone restructuring their restaurant is to give as much to your community as you possibly can, and it will come back to you — maybe not immediately, but it will,” Printz said.
In Seattle, Alexandra Stang, beverage director for the Hitchcock Restaurant Group, has seen a flourishing group of six restaurants quickly winnow down to two that remain open. “It’s been a scary and heartbre