May 5

Restaurants Pivot During the COVID-19 Crisis

Restaurants put their creativity and resourcefulness in full gear as they keep their doors open during stay at home orders.

It’s no secret — the restaurant industry has faced a lot of challenges. Throughout time, restaurants have not only rolled with the punches, they’ve learned how to come out on top, becoming stronger in the face of whatever is thrown their way. Regardless, I think we can all agree that the COVID-19 stay at home orders have been a whole new beast. Showing their true colors, restaurants across the nation put their innovative and resourceful feet forward as the pandemic forces them to pivot their business models. They’ve even found new ways to provide hospitality when Americans need it most.

La Dive in Seattle, Washington — a neighborhood and industry wine bar offering glasses poured to the rim and a late night menu of thoughtfully prepared food — is just one business among many who had to reconsider their business model in the face of the pandemic. “I spent about an hour crying before laying off our entire staff,” shared Anais Custer, co-owner of La Dive. “Once we met up as an ownership we realized ‘we can still sell our wine retail, right?!?’ We re-engineered our food program for pickup and delivery and expanded our retail selection pretty much that day.”

Rolling with the punches of a halting consumer market, La Dive soon adapted to Washington State’s Stay at Home order. Taking a look at what they could offer, they saw an opportunity to lean into their retail program selling natural wines, sherries and vermouth and take-home meals for pickup or delivery — they also connected with industry peers to figure out how to support one another.

Custer and close friend Monica Dimas of Little Neon Taco came together to curate a family dinner and wine package. “As soon as this happened we called each other and said ‘what can I do for you and how can we work together to be more successful?’ Of all the professional challenges we’ve faced as a restaurant community, this one takes the cake,” Custer explained. “We understand that we need to support and promote each other as much as possible right now.”

La Dive is one example of many restaurants that have pivoted toward new ways to provide a unique experience for customers — even if it’s within their own homes. Stephanie Izard of The Girl and The Goat in Chicago, Illinois recently announced The Girl & The Goat-ceries via social media. Their online market includes pre-ordered meal kits that include access to virtual cooking demonstrations, and a virtual store with baked goods and grocery staples for purchase to pickup.

Restaurants Tusk and Ava Gene’s of Submarine Hospitality in Portland, Oregon have expanded beyond traditional pre-made take-out, to offering grocery staples like dried and fresh pastas, eggs, and milk — and they are not alone. Restaurants across the nation are starting to stock their shelves with staples that groceries are struggling to keep in stores. Offering things like flour, sugar and meats provides customers a more ‘socially distant’ alternative to the grocery store, and helps local vendors and farmers who are also feeling the strain of a shuttered restaurant industry.

As the COVID-19 pandemic changes our consumer market, restaurants are innovating to remain open and provide service within their communities. These examples of how restaurants are pivoting their businesses remind us of the resilience in our industry — and while no one knows what life will look like after the pandemic, restaurants will remain important staples to the community.

About the author


Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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