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How Restaurants Are Pivoting Toward A Post-Pandemic Future

A critical time for evaluating options and making plans.

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Nobody knows exactly what the food world will look like as the public health situation changes. But many restaurants have already revised their operations for the present, while preparing to adapt as needed to keep their doors open—and keep serving their communities.

Photo: Courtesy Coyo Taco.

Alan Drummond
Co-founder, Coyo Taco, Miami

In the next few weeks, we’ll keep on pivoting and doing completely new things that we hadn’t done before. We’re going to start offering gift cards for the business that people can give to someone else. We can see it as people helping and contributing. We’re making more and more cocktails available by the gallon. We’re releasing an amazing sangria this week, and we’re going to do one with mezcal the next week. We’re also adding more items that make sense for delivery. We’re thinking about people cooking in their house.

As for delivery, we’re thinking of a lot of things. How is it transported? We’re looking at the materials that they come in. Our food is made to order. We’re getting better and better at finding ways to package our food so that it’s fresh when you receive it in your house. For the taquito style we do, we separate the tortilla from the salsa and the proteins so that you have much longer to deliver it without the taco breaking. Although we like to dress the taco for the customer at our locations, we let them do it in a different manner at home. We’re starting to do much more catering to the needs of a family rather than thinking of an individual.

Photo: Courtesy En Hakkore 2.0.

Kyuhyun Joshua Lee
Manager, En Hakkore 2.0, Chicago

I’d say it’s not going to be like, “Oh, it’s over. We can all go back to our normal lives, stop wearing facial masks, and ignore social distancing.” Those habits will stay with us, will linger with us. When flu season comes in, people will go back to that social distancing and mask-wearing mode. I think our challenge here is creating easier service for the customers so they can pick up their food and get their food delivered without worrying too much. They can trust their food. They’re safe, they’re fresh, they’re good.

Photo: Courtesy Tallula’s Taqueria.

Josh Loeb
Co-owner, Tallula’s, Los Angeles

It’s helpful to think of the short-term, medium-term, and long-term plan when we look at each business, because the short term is getting through this period of total lockdown. The medium term will be the period with less diners—maybe an experience isn’t as intimate because there’s masks and gloves and all that stuff, and closures because there’s an outbreak in a certain are,a and they’ve got to close everyone down for a week or two. That’s going to require a lot of flexibility and being nimble. You have to do less, do it really well, and have a really solid built-in delivery and to-go platform, even if that’s not what you normally do. Even if they start allowing diners back in, in a moment’s notice it could be gone for a week or two at a time.

We’re trying to streamline our to-go stuff and think about when we do let diners back in, how we create an experience that is really awesome, but also really streamlined so that it’s easy to build up and break down as needed. You know—focusing on the key elements of what every place is.

Photo: Courtesy Handpulled Noodle.

Andrew Ding
Owner, Handpulled Noodle, New York

I might be a little bit in a better position than most because we started as a delivery-takeout. But I would say the restaurants that immediately shut down and didn’t even bother trying to do delivery service might have to rethink that. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of closed restaurants where I’m thinking—I get that you never did delivery or takeout, but you really should just call some platform and get your menu online and work it out. It will take you a week and a half, but at least you have some revenue coming in.