▶️ Restaurants become markets to keep cash flowing through COVID

With coronavirus-related restrictions, many restaurant owners are now getting creative when it comes to the business of the food.

Bacari GDL in Glendale, California doesn’t look much like a tapas-wine bar these days.

COVID-19 restrictions stopped dine-in services for now, so the restaurant tried to do take out business. “It just wasn’t enough to sustain us,”says Robert Kronfli, co-founder of Bacari Restaurant Group.

So Kronfli and his partners shut down the restaurant and reopened as a local grocery store using the food they already had. “Flour, we”ll open up a 50-pound bag and repack it into 5-pound bags,” Kronfli says. “I just think its what the neighborhood needs more than our regular menu.”

This trend is “cooking” all over the country.

At Chef Geoff’s in Washington, D.C., Geoff Tracy, the husband of CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell, turned his dining room into a market.

But food isn’t his number one seller. Tracy says, “Gloves, toilet paper and bleach are our number one.” He’s also offering take out, but Tracy still had to let 200 employees go.

“We had 9/11 hit right around here, the financial crisis, and in none of those situations did I ever have to lay off a single person.” He’s using any money made through his market to give to his workers.

It’s not only locally-owned restaurants that are turning into grocery stores.

The national chain Panera is now selling fresh produce and dairy products for pick up or delivery at 1,800 locations.

Landry’s-owned restaurants across the country are doing the same, including at the Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. General Manager Charlene Gulliford says, “We’re selling 6 lemons for $2, so those are better than grocery store prices.”

The high-end seafood restaurant is also selling sea bass and lobster tails. “The elderly people are extremely appreciative. They don’t have to go into the stores and they can come and have groceries put in their trunks,” Gulliford says.

The pop-up pantries have become popular, but these restaurants are hoping they can soon bring back the dine-in experience customers are craving.


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