Tactical Solutions for Downtown Restaurants

  • Insights

In the last month alone the retail and restaurant industry has been flipped upside down. Many local small businesses, however, are standing ground and leveraging existing conditions as an opportunity to test new product offerings and services, and most importantly, give back to the communities in need. Here are some quick solutions culled from our conversations with front-line business service providers, including the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Downtown Memphis Commission. We continue to be inspired by the creative ways in which businesses continue to stay resilient amidst the pandemic. Here are a few of their stories.

Closing the Gap on Quality Grocery

Having quickly identified a gap in quality grocery offerings amidst panic buying conditions, the Richard Deshantz Restaurant Group in Pittsburgh, PA reached out to long-time suppliers, Chef’s Warehouse, and are joining forces to create meat and poultry packages to serve the Pittsburgh area. Launched in the first week of April, just a week after the governor of the state announced an order to stay at home for non-essential services, the restaurateur and supplier are coordinating curbside pick-up service of high-quality, vacuum-sealed, flash-frozen beef, chicken, and seafood and a variety of other pantry items. Their next phase will include rolling out prepared food items from its various restaurants.

Spindini, an Italian restaurant on South Main (Memphis, TN), similarly transformed its restaurant into the “South Main Grocery”, offering kitchen staples and grab-and-go frozen meals for the downtown Memphis community, which lacks a full-service grocery store. Keeping in mind social distancing measures, the store also sets aside special shopping hours for first responders and healthcare workers and senior shoppers.

Creating New DIY Products

As customers continue to social distance themselves, many are finding themselves back in the kitchen and cooking new recipes. Some restaurants and bakeries have quickly jumped on the opportunity and have quickly adapted their menus to develop bring-it-home or do-it-yourself products for customers to test at home. Primas Bakery & Boutique in downtown Memphis, for example, has created a “Cotton Tail” cookie decorating kit to keep kids busy on Easter Sunday Kits. These and other baked goods are available for order online with free curbside pickup and delivery within 48 hours in Shelby County.

In Los Angeles, Love Hour, a popular pop-up food vendor, has also created home kits for customers to continue enjoying their burgers. These home kits are available for pre-order and pick-up and are easily prepared with the help of a creative instructional video that the business has uploaded on their social channels.

Partnering For Virtual Tasting Tours

In downtown Memphis, local tour company City Tasting Tours is continuing to offer its food tours virtually, offering local customers an elevated at-home dining experience. For $65.99, anyone can enjoy a dinner for two prepared by partner local restaurants while watching curated videos that tell the stories of local restaurateurs. The interactive experience will last 1.5 hours and includes contact-free delivery of the food and experience package to Shelby County residents.

Also in Memphis, Phillip Ashley Chocolates has started live Instagram tastings parties. The store curates a box of chocolates (and sometimes pairs it with spirits or wine) for delivery. They have been getting creative, one live tasting event even included guest DJ’s!

Feeding Important Customers – The Frontline Workers

While many customers may simply be confined to their homes, we must always remember that a large share of our population have also lost employment in the restaurant and hospitality sectors and that there are those who continue to risk their lives daily as essential workers to provide critical healthcare and city services. Restaurant owners and hospitality leaders, with the significant contribution of other private citizens and major sponsors, have rallied together and stepped up to ensure the needs of both these vulnerable groups are addressed by a) restoring jobs in restaurants and b) providing nutritious meals to hospital staff across the country as part of the Off Their Plate program.

Off Their Plate is a volunteer-led initiative that is raising money to redirect funds to partner restaurants in Boston, San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh. The initiative is equipping participating restaurants with funds to restore wages and work to their staff who prepare meals for healthcare heroes and vulnerable local communities. To date, Off Their Plate has raised over $850,000 and will be feeding over 85,000 meals and restoring 26,000 shift hours to employees at local restaurants.

We hope these ideas kindle other creative thoughts for your own business or commercial districts as you weather the storm ahead. If you are a business owner interested in better understanding your next steps in the immediate or long-term, please reach out to the Streetsense family. As our uncommon collective of designers and strategists continue to collaborate on recovery initiatives for many clients we are already engaged with, we are also ready to mobilize and support you in re-envisioning your real estate and retail, food and beverage, and hospitality businesses post-pandemic. Today, it is more important than ever to continue delivering dynamic, customized solutions that create safe and meaningful brands, places, and experiences for the communities we serve.


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