In Week 2, Restaurants Get Creative with Take-Out, Virtual Happy Hours and More
As the second week of major disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak draws to a close, area restaurants are working hard to stay in business. That’s led some of them to come up with creative ways to interact with their customers in an era of social distancing.
Coffee in the Age of COVID-19
Daily Dose Cafe and Espresso co-owner Ben Havn estimates his business has fallen off by around 60% when compared to the numbers from March of last year. That necessitated some staffing changes; Havn and co-owner Curt Medina prioritized keeping full time staffers – those who have rent and mortgages to pay – on the payroll, while laying off part timers. The staff trimming means Havn is fairly confident the cafe, which has locations in Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove, will survive the coronavirus shutdown.
But it won’t be easy. Transitioning from a cozy coffee shop to a curbside carryout location, followed by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s executive order for people to stay at home except for necessary trips, makes future sales uncertain. Hovn asks, “Will they get in their car in their garage, come sit in our parking lot and let us bring them food? That I don’t know.” Still, Havn found room in the budget to extend their medical professional discount of 15%, usually only available on Mondays, to seven days a week.
“‘Cause they need it,” says Havn. “I wish we could do more, but we still need to pay employees and keep the lights on.” He adds that because of the coronavirus outbreak, medical workers are working long hours, under a lot of stress. “Some of them have lost their jobs. Some clinics have shut down because patients have stopped coming in. So they’ve been kinda furloughed for the meantime.” Of the expanded discount, Havn says “It’s just kinda the right thing to do.”
Robbinsdale Restaurant Also Surviving
Meanwhile, south of Daily Dose in Robbinsdale, Nonna Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano is still open for business – albeit with a reduced staff – and they’ve come up with a way to keep interacting with their customers, from a coronavirus-safe distance. Owner Tina Suglia and her husband, Chef/owner Francesco are hosting “virtual happy hours,” on their Facebook page. The live videos give the pair an outlet to connect with customers while teaching them how to cook, make some of the restaurant’s cocktails, and host food-and-drink related discussions.
“It gives us a chance to keep connected to our customers,” says Suglia. “We really miss ’em.” Their next event is tonight, Friday March 27 at 3 p.m. You can watch it free here.
Suglia thinks the virtual happy hours are actually helping – she’s had several take out customers come in, mentioning they’d seen them. That’s reassuring to a restaurant that’s having to navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 era.
“So far, every day that we’re here is worth being here,” Suglia says. “Unfortunately we can’t really bring back our team, but we should be able to cover our basic expenses.” She’s optimistic her restaurant will still be around at least through May. “If we keep going like this, there’s no reason to think we won’t. I feel really blessed that we can still do some work.”
For more coverage on COVID-19’s impact on our community from CCX News, click here.
Brandon Bankston, Reporting