Restaurants have been my life for as long as I can remember. I am as proud of my work with our farmer-owned restaurant company as I am happy – honestly happy – to go to work every day.
Part of this love stems from the bottom-line basics of hospitality: taking care of people. And part of this stems from the toughness and resilience of my biz partner and team, and others across this industry – a gritty, hard-working & caring, get-it-done, and be-creative-while-you-are-at-it culture.
Maybe this comes with our territory. There’s never been true stability in the restaurant business. Yesterday’s success has never guaranteed a full dining room tomorrow. Success every day takes an amazing team, legit culture, and some amount of good luck.
As difficult as it has always been, I knew what I signed up for. I knew it could wobble or struggle, and that was always part of the work. But I never really thought it could just evaporate in an instant. But, evaporate it did.
In our company, we went from over 1,000 employees to under 100; from serving 50,000 diners a week across seven restaurants, to serving 2,500 diners per week at their car or their doorstep.
It was decision time. Do we limp along, wounded and without a real business model burning cash until we’re unable to continue to operate? Do we just close? As I wrote in an earlier post, we quite quickly decided no, we weren’t going to go down either of those paths. We wanted to stay in the fight. But we knew that to do so, we needed to create a new company, a new model, a new recipe – using all our ingredients: (1) amazing people with heart, soul, and expertise; (2) passionate guests and communities who believed in our farmer-owned business and scratch-made approach to dining; (3) exceptional partners and suppliers who wanted to help us stay open; and (4) a very clear fight or flight response that screamed “FIGHT.”
From March 17th to April 4th, we took those ingredients and created a new recipe, adding a little of this, a lot of that, mixing and blending, shaping and cooking, and believing that we could make something great...
We are still operating our restaurants, only To Go for the moment, but now we’re much more. Now we are five markets in DC, MD, VA, and PA, each with over 500 items (and growing!) including chef-prepared foods, freshly baked breads and pastries, a butcher & deli, fruits & veggies, house-churned ice cream, beer, wine, bottle craft cocktails, spirits, CBD and Apothekary plant-based medicine, and household essentials like toilet paper and even face masks.
We are meeting our customers where they are… and right now, that means in their car or at their front door, contact-free. We are doing it as safely as we can with workplace safety paramount.
As needs evolved, so have we. As our customers evolve, we evolve with them. But we are still the same people, adapting to our changing world, working even harder than usual to serve our customers and communities, while trying our best to save our company. Yes, we had to lay off 1,100 people, but now, forty-four days later, we’ve rehired 275 and counting. I can’t even find the words to describe the incredible efforts of my team, so I’ll settle for a simple, resounding, heartfelt Thank You & Bravo.
Of course, when our guests and customers are ready for us to meet them at the table in our dining room, or at our bar, we’ll be thrilled to be right there, providing our style of hospitality, culinary and beverage delight, and just good old-fashioned service. In the meantime, we’re also delighted to provide your groceries.