Categories
Articles

Preparing your restaurant for COVID-19 changes

The Coronavirus or COVID-19 is drastically changing the restaurant industry like never before. Numerous restaurant chains and corporations are changing their entire business models to try and survive in this quickly moving economic scenario. Many will not survive.

Dine-in traffic is imploding as more Americans wake up to the fact that COVID-19 is very contagious and that social norms of dining out just won’t work for the forseeable future. A vaccine could be at least 14-18 months away according to some experts.

How can you prepare your restaurant for this new reality? Here are a few tips:

Pivot to delivery and take-out

Delivery was already rapidly growing before COVID-19 entered the mix. The number of people ordering on Uber EATS, DoorDash, and the like has been growing rapidly over the last few years even though those business models have yet to become profitable.

You should explore each delivery platform to see which one works best and think about how you can make the numbers add-up to make your business succeed on the platform. If you can provide your own delivery, consider that as well.

Consumers will be spending more time at home and no doubt many will not want to cook 24-7, which is an opportunity for your business to sell to customers directly in their homes.

To be successful you will need to make your list of products available to be as competitive as every chain on earth and local businesses trying to stick around all go online. You may need to simplify your menu to more profitable items and adjust with to online habits.

Make sure to calculate and ensure that there is an operational way to move forward during this time if you choose to do delivery – you will most likely need to scale labor to how much traffic you can pull. Several restaurants in Oregon recently realized that their business models were not built for delivery.

Most delivery services will claim anything from 10%-30% on delivery fees. Consider offering a discount for take-out service to convince customers to pick-up their own orders.

This won’t be easy in the least and your business will no doubt still suffer from the lack of dine-in traffic, but if you want to survive this may be the only path forward.

Prioritize safety and cleanliness

During a pandemic virus, people are going to be very nervous about cleanliness and whether their food is being handled with care, whether it is for delivery or pick-up. Safety and cleanliness for both customers and employees will be key.

The last thing you want is for an investigation to be done into your restaurant for making people work sick and for negative press to accumulate.

At the high stress levels people are experiencing right now, the chances of this happening may actually be quite high. Consider paid sick leave and absolutely do not allow sick workers to come to work and find a way to compensate them.

Institute plans for how you will verify that your workers are healthy and able to serve and be transparent with your customers about how you are protecting their safety.

It goes far beyond just an e-mail and will need to be done regularly as cases come up in the news about outbreaks in restaurants.

Consumer confidence is the key during this time. Any indication that customers should not eat at your business may lead them running to another one or instead to the grocery stores.

Marketing + Social Media could give an advantage

Social Media will be an important way to maintain your brand and still reach customers who will be either working from home, going to school at home, or just home – depending on how economic forces change in the next few months.

Don’t forget that many platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer targeted advertising so you can reach your ideal customers. While it’s true that your budget is certainly strained, if you use it wisely it will pay off.

Remember to think about what people want to click and not just what you want to say.

Consider other ways to reach customers like e-mails and text message outreach. Most customers will have be spending more time online and you need to reach them there.

Brainstorm daily deals or packages that customers can draw on like family deals, couple deals, or themed deals.

Even if your business does end up closing during this economic time, maintaining your online presence may keep your brand alive for the future when everyone eventually gets back on their feet and outside. Come up with a marketing plan that reflects this.

If you’re a known chef or restaurant consider making videos at home with cooking tips, advice for people on grocery shopping decisions, use Facebook LIVE and Instagram LIVE, there are tools out there that you can use to try and keep your brand going in this time of uncertainty. Stay in front of the face of your customers.

Reach out to influencers and media

Influencers have already-built channels as does the media that may be locally tied to your business. Many influencer events, cross-promotions, and advertisements have been canceled as the COVID-19 virus makes its mark.

If your restaurant is going to continue fighting to stay in business, consider reaching out to influencers and to the media. Consider how you can position your business in a way that is relevant to their audience during this difficult time.

Influencers have an interest in maintaining their outreach during this time and no doubt probably have some extra time on their hands. Consider how you can reach out to them in a way that is beneficial for your business…after all you want people to reach out to your business for takeout and delivery right?

As for the media, this may become more tricky as many media companies are experiencing an exodus of advertisers due to COVID-19 which is straining their staff. As with any other time period, the key is relevance for the media. Subscribe to all media sites and channels and watch what they are talking about. Follow journalists on Twitter.

When you see something relevant to your business, reach out. There is a public interest in helping both local businesses and restaurants during this time, but first you have to reach out to get your story out there. How are you coping? What are your plans for your staff? How can they help you? Messaging is the key.

Support other businesses and organizations

COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on a wide range of businesses including many local ones and organizations that are involved in helping our communities. Consider how your business can help those other groups out.

Your business will be stronger by working with others and supporting each other. Restaurants have always played a big role in the communities around them, but during COVID-19 you may need some out of the box ideas to help your fellow community partners out. They will be sure to return the favor if you do.

The “social distancing” required during COVID-19 will make people feel isolated, but if your business is proactive and tries to bring people together for a group or cause it could make a difference. Share posts from other partners in related community fields on your feed or important government updates. We are all in this together!

Questions or looking for more advice? Reach out at CarlosEats[at]gmail[dot]com or fill out my contact form.

Categories
Articles Restaurant review Reviews

Chuan Lu Garden in Orlando offers dim sum worth paying for

We live in strange times. Chinese eateries are seeing a decline in business due to Coronavirus fears spreading throughout the United States and arguably the planet. Some Chinese restaurants in Orlando are reporting a 20-30% drop in business despite that fact that there isn’t a single case of coronavirus in Florida.

While there is nothing wrong with being prepared and conscious of what’s happening around the globe, there’s a simple fact that this virus is not in Florida at this time. I decided to eat at my one of my favorite Chinese spots in Orlando during my last visit in Mills 50 District called Chuan Lu Garden.

I have checked out a few dim sum spots nearby such as Peter’s Kitchen and Ming’s Bistro, but neither were as good as Chuan Lu Garden despite being more popular and busier establishments. Most people visit because Chuan Lu is open until 2AM and is a reliable late-night option, but for me it’s all about dim sum for breakfast.

It’s hard to find a good dim sum spot in Florida, nothing really compares to all the great spots in San Francisco. Lord knows that Yummy House in Tampa doesn’t even come close to any of the places in Orlando. I have long hoped for more dim sum options in Tampa, but that doesn’t seem to be materializing and it remains to see what kind of effect this drop in business will have on Chinese businesses.

One of my favorite dim sum choices is the egg tart. It seems simple enough, but the crust is really the key and so many places get it wrong. Some places also have terrible egg inside. It’s delicate, but delicious. Chuan Lu does it right. My only regret was not saving it for the end so I could savor the flavor in mouth for a little longer.

Salt and Pepper Squid. This is one of my favorite dishes. It was one of the only reasons I frequented Yummy House before they were closed numerous times for health code violations and slid in quality. This one was crispy and I especially enjoyed the peppers and onions. It reminded me of a breakfast hash without the potato. Not bad for a breakfast at all.

Sesame balls with red bean inside. I love red bean. It has to have just the right mix though because the flavor can be a little overwhelming for those not accustomed to regularly eating. These balls were just right for me. It was a satisfying dish that I would order again and again.

A look inside the sesame ball with red bean.

This is a must any time I grab dim sum. Shrimp and Pork Shumai. The dumplings with a mix of the two inside is savory and satisfied my craving for some meat without being just pork or beef. I personally can’t eat too much meat early on in the day.

These shrimp dumplings were probably the only disappointing part of my meal. I’ve had it before at Chuan Lu and it was much better in the past, but this time it had an aftertaste to it, probably something to do with the batter they were mixing since the other shrimp dishes were fine. It’s still one of my favorite dim sum choices so I would probably order it again in the future.

Steamed egg custard bun. This dish was tasty and a good end to our meal. It hit all the right flavors and was a nice sweeter ending to the meal. I don’t order as many buns normally because I get extremely full when I eat them.

So there you have it. Everything was mostly great and we enjoyed all this food and tea for around $30 total which is quite affordable. Dim sum in Orlando is great at many places and I hope everyone will consider supporting Chinese restaurants during this time.

Chuan Lu Garden. 1101 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (407) 868-8709.

Categories
Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: New World Brewery re-opens in Tampa February 12th 2020

New World Brewery, a popular live-music spot with great craft beer and food that first opening in 1994 and closed in Ybor City a few years ago, is re-opening on February 12th, 2020 at 6PM with a new location near Sulphur Springs at 810 East Skagway Tampa, Florida 33604.

They will kick off their opening party with all-you-can-eat pizza and two drafts of beer for $35. Tickets are required to attend.

Tickets can be purchased at newworldtampa.com/store.

Here is a look at their menu via their website:

You can visit New World Brewery online at newworldtampa.com.

Categories
Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: Roux in South Tampa is now permanently closed

Roux, the New Orleans concept by Datz Restaurant Group, has ceased operations according to a report by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The restaurant was known for serving favorites of Cajun and Creole cuisine such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, and also some of the best cornbread I have ever enjoyed in Tampa. The chefs were brought from New Orleans back in 2014 for a true experience for fans of the cuisine to enjoy.

Datz Restaurant Group is currently busy opening new restaurants across the bridge including most recently their Datz St. Petersburg branch and a cafe inside The James Museum. A new Datz location is also opening soon in Brandon.

Here is a parting message from the owners:

View this post on Instagram

Thank you for the memories

A post shared by Roux Tampa (@rouxtampa) on

 

Categories
Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: Yum Yum Hot Pot AYCE opening soon in Temple Terrace

It would seem that interest in hot pot in Tampa right now is on fire! Yum Yum Hot Pot AYCE is opening soon in Temple Terrace just minutes from USF and Tampa’s Uptown. Jennifer Will shared the news with that I can now confirm after a post about Nine Spices Hot Pot potentially coming to Fowler Avenue.

Yum Yum’s application for a license is still in progress.

73326793_410038853015985_8119736944121872384_n.jpg

The business hasn’t posted anything yet on the social media channels it has up but their Facebook description reads: “All you can eat Hot Pot Restaurant. You cook all the fresh foods to your own liking with no grease. New dining experience await(s) you.”

Owner Cuong Chau says Yum Yum Hot Pot is still a few weeks away from completion.

yum yum hot pot tampa - Google Search.png

The owners have also already been added to Google Maps. The location is next to Shapes Gym at 11301 North 56th street Unit #6  Temple Terrace, Florida 33617

The official site is yumyumhotpotayce.com.

Exciting times in Tampa. More information as it comes in.

Categories
Articles Dining Guide Reviews

Dining Guide: Great local restaurants to eat at in Brandon

Full disclosure: I have performed sponsored work for Kiwami Ramen Sushi. These opinions on this list are strictly my own and do not represent any sponsors or paid work.

Brandon has been transforming over the years from a quiet suburban town to a busy place with tons of apartment complexes and subdivisions rising around the area. There is now a Top Golf, Dave and Buster’s, and the Westfield Brandon Towncenter has exploded with traffic. People are moving south to Riverview and East to Valrico. The new Riverview GDX and Xscape Riverview theaters further prove the population growth of this area.

Many people complain that there are not local options in Brandon, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll find a wide-variety of food from a variety of cuisines around the area, if you know where to look. Most places will run you around $10-20 per person for a meal. The options continue to grow, here is a list of some of my recommendations.

Allegria Italiana: Your old school Italian eatery with white table covers and a romantic vibe, Allegria Italiana has a great variety of gourmet Italian food that is better than many places around the bay. The servers have been friendly on my visits and prices are about what you would expect for this kind of concept. Everything from the appetizers and pasta to dessert is great. $$ 518 Oakfield Dr., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 651-1166 allegriaitaliana.com

La Cubanita: Great Cuban sandwiches and steak sandwiches. You can’t really go wrong with their cafe con leche and a sandwich. They also have great deals on platters of food and have specials daily. There are many places around Brandon with sandwiches and coffee, but this is one of the best. They serve La Segunda bread which is of course the best. $ 723 W. Lumsden Rd., Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 661-2253. 

Kiwami Ramen and Sushi: Newcomer serving quality, gourmet ramen and sushi. The perfect marriage no matter what your mood is. Prices are fair and far less than the options in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Lunch specials on weekdays and happy hour deals make Kiwami and even better choice. The rolls are different from you’ll find in most places in Tampa. 10262 Causeway Blvd., Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 393-0683. kiwamiramensushi.com

Ploy Thai: Ploy Thai has been serving Thai food for over a decade on State Road 60. The restaurant has changed and evolved over the year from more of a sushi concept and then back into a more Thai-focused restaurant. The menu is large and they have transitioned more into a finer dining concept. $$ 1941 W. Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 684-5007.

Sushi Kampai: If you like some simple rolls or great deals, Sushi Kampai is for you. The rolls are affordable and they also have lunch combos and bento boxes. You’ll find some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food options on the menu as well. Service can be slow when they get busy so plan ahead. They also offer delivery and take-out if you’re feeling lazy. $ 10312 Bloomingdale Ave. #111, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 620-3717.

Taste of Berlin: This German eatery is owned by some German expats and has a great schnitzel. Most items on the menu are made from scratch down to the sauces. The German beer selection isn’t quite as expansive as Mr. Dunderbak’s in Tampa, but there are some decent options on the menu for those looking to wash down their food. The owners regularly host events here especially for Oktoberfest. $$ 526 Oakfield Dr, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 685-9392.

LC’s Cafe and Supper Club: LC’s Cafe is a nice little spot for a lite breakfast or brunch. They have some Cuban food options and also some breakfast options. It isn’t anything fancy, but the decor feels like home and it is a great place to go and catch up with someone. It is a family-owned small business. $$ 1602 Oakfield Dr #103, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 526-9395.

Shrimp Boat: If you love seafood, you will love Shrimp Boat. This busy local restaurant on Bloomingdale serves quality seafood dishes and even their regular American dishes scream quality. It gets very busy, but there is usually some space in the bar area. They have happy hour deals and specials regularly and you also cannot go wrong with their soups. $$ 1020 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, FL 33596. (813) 571-5858. shrimpboatgrille.com

Green Island Frozen Yogurt & Tea Bar: Green Island has been around for over a decade if I’m not mistaken. They were one of the first boba shops and frozen yogurt shops to open in Tampa Bay. It’s a nice option if you’re on State Road 60 and heading to the nearby M.D. Oriental Market. Their bubble tea isn’t my favorite, but their Thai tea is pretty good and so is the coconut smoothie or watermelon smoothie (when available). $ 10047 E. Adamo Dr, Tampa, FL 33619. (813) 374-9006. 

Smokin Pig BBQ: Smokin Pig serves some great barbeque options and has plenty of space inside for those who want to dine-in. They have family deals as well as specials and combos. My favorite thing here is their Mac and Cheese, it is incredibly cheesy and delicious. Their brisket tastes great and I like their corn bread. $$ 3834 US-301, Riverview, FL 33578. (813) 512-2500 smokinpig.com

Chicago’s Best Burgers: If you want some truly amazing burgers do not miss Chicago’s Best. They maintain a low profile online, but they serve one of the best burgers I have enjoyed in Tampa Bay. You’ll spend a little more than some other shops, but the taste is well worth it. I highly recommend it. $$ 1925 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511. (813) 654-3232.

 

Categories
Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: Florida Eats now permanently closed in Seminole Heights

Florida Eats is now permanently closed in Seminole Heights after being open just a few months. The Chipotle-style eatery posted on Facebook about their end of business due to “circumstances out of our control”.

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 was the last day of service. Florida Eats had a controversial upstart when a lawsuit (since cancelled) was filed by Brew Bus Brewing against the restaurant and owner, Greg Spaddy, for infringement of the name Florida Avenue Brewing.

Next door neighbor King of the Coop seems to have lots of momentum and be performing well in the next door space, it doesn’t seem like the location was an issue.

The Refinery also recently closed in Seminole Heights and is converting into a event/wedding hall. The Refinery was part of an early investment into the Seminole Heights neighborhood and brought several businesses into the fold after the tumult of the financial crisis began to wane with a focus on attempting to provide local ingredients at an affordable price.

Categories
Articles Web 2.0

Scumbag CNBC video advocates denying restaurant servers full tips to save money

Tipping your servers is vital people. It should not be a game where you’re trying to save money. A new video from CNBC advocates saving money by doubling the tax percentage or tipping on a pre-tax amount to skirt below 20% in any way possible. Either way, it is a bad look to look to your tip amount as a way to save money.

Servers depend on their tips for survival and although it is an unfortunate part of our food system, it is truly awful to plan to save money at restaurants by looking to avoid tipping.

There are so many ways to save money, order what you can afford, share with someone else at the table, etc. Please don’t penalize servers because of your financial situation. It’s wrong. Many servers have to share their tips with other staff in the restaurant they work in and when you tip them less you are actually lowering their overall pay as well. This is bad.

Thank you.

Categories
Articles Restaurant News

Nigerian concept Eko Kitchen and Catering coming to San Francisco May 2019

Sometimes good things happen on Twitter. Twitter user and future restaurateur Simileoluwa Adebajo shared her plans to make a Nigerian restaurant in San Francisco this past Friday on the social media platform and went viral across the internet.

Nigeria is home to hundreds of ethnic groups and nearly 200 million people, but restaurants are far and few between and she hopes to change that.

The name of the restaurant will be Eko Kitchen and it is currently having pop-ups around the city and offering delivery service with plans for an opening on Friday, May 3rd, 2019 at Joint Venture Kitchen -167 11th Street, San Francisco, California.

The restaurant will offer service Friday evening through Sundays and handle catering on weekdays from Monday to Wednesday.

Joint Venture Kitchen is a fully-equipped restaurant space in SoMA that also serves as home to bay area pop-ups in San Francisco. It is the hub of Eko Kitchen.

Simileoluwa Adebajo shares, “Nigerian food is soulful, spicy, and full of life, much like Nigerian people. I started Eko Kitchen because I missed home and wanted to share Nigerian culture with the world through our food.”

Adebajo does not have a formal background in kitchens or restaurants, but has been offering delivery on UberEATs and Postmates since July of 2018 and only recently added pop-ups, cooking classes, and catering to her business. She credits her mother and 2 grandmothers for the things she has learned about cooking as well as the internet.

Delivery is currently being offered on UberEATs and Postmates with items such as Moin Moin, Ofada Stew, Nigerian Style Fried Rice, Honey Glazed Jolloff Wings, and more.

For more information, visit Eko Kitchen and Catering online at http://ekokitchensf.wixsite.com/nomnom/menu.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ekokitchensf/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ekokitchensf/

More stories about Nigerian food:

Categories
Articles Dining Guide

Dining Guide: Valentine’s Day 2019 in San Francisco

Valentine’s Day is the second-busiest day in the year for restaurants after Mother’s Day.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $143.56 on Valentine’s Day just two years ago and that number keeps increasing every year with nearly $4 billion spent annually on an evening out. There are dozens if not hundreds of event around San Francisco Bay Area for Valentine’s Day 2019.

Here are Valentine’s Day events happening around San Francisco that I think are worth checking out, in case you’re still looking for plans:

  • Valentine’s Day at Le Colonial: Enjoy an a la carte menu with a number of specials and also a 4-course prix-fixe menu for Valentine’s Day for $85 (excludes tax and gratuity) from 5:30PM to 11:30PM (last reservation at 10:45PM). Choices include Lemongrass Chicken Two Ways, Grilled Halibut, Roasted Duck Breast, or Grilled Filet Mignon ($10 up-charge). Live music will be provided by Mark Robinson’s jazz trio from 7PM to 10PM. 20 Cosmo Place San Francisco, CA 94109. (415) 931-3600 lecolonialsf.com
  • Valentine’s Day Tasting Menu at ROOH!: Feeling like Indian? Me too. ROOH! will have a special tasting menu to enjoy for the occasion with many items including Chickpea Cake, Duck Sheek Kebab, Double Baked Soufflé , Tandoori Cauliflower, and more. Reservations can be made online. 333 Brannan St #150, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 525-4174 roohsf.com
  • Night of The Thousand Candles at La Mar SF: Enjoy Valentine’s Day at La Mar SF with their thousand candle celebration and their 3-course prix-course meal for $85 per person. Some menu items include seasonal Dungeness crab, Diver Scallops, and Chocolate Mousse. Pier 1 1/2 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 397-8880. lamarsf.com
  • Valentine’s Day at Alexander’s Steakhouse: Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like a steakhouse. Alexander’s will be open from 5:30PM to 9:30PM on Valentine’s Day and have a $149 (tax and gratuity not included) multi-course prix-fixe menu featuring shared dishes and top-quality beef. Diners can add a wine pairing for an additional $69. Guests will receive a complimentary glass of sparkling rosé and each couple will be given a long stem rose at the end of their meal. 448 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 495-1111. alexanderssteakhouse.com
  • Valentine’s Day Starlight Cruise: Red and White Fleet is offering a special cruise in celebration of Valentine’s Day for $95 per person. The experience includes champagne on arrival, a romantic buffet dinner, live entertainment, and complimentary beer and wine. Buffet items include Roast Chicken, Santa Maria Carved Tri-Tip, Stuffed Bell Peppers, Spinach and Feta Pasta, and more. Red and White Fleet cruises are some of the most amazing trips I’ve been on across the San Francisco Bay Area with stunning views of Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and San Francisco all lit up at night. redandwhite.com
  • Valentine’s Day Bakery Pop-up at Harmonic Brewing: M. Denham Baking Co. will have a bakery pop-up at Harmonic Brewing in Potrero Hill on Valentine’s Day from 3PM to 7PM. Whole cakes and pies can be pre-ordered until Sunday, February 11th. Pre-orders get 10% off. On the menu: Oat Flour Chiffon Cake with passion fruit, buttercream, and lime leaf and Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie with walnuts. 1050 26th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 872-6817. mdenhambakingco.com
  • Valentine’s Day Beer & Chocolate Pairing: Triple Voodoo Brewery near Dogpatch is having a special beer and chocolate pairing on Valentine’s Day from 6PM to 9PM that includes 4 beers and 4 truffles from Recchiuti Confections. Tickets are now on-sale for $17. The pairing lasts an hour. 2245 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 598-8811. triplevoodoo.com
  • Romance from the Sky – Valentine’s Day at Cityscape Lounge: Get that beautiful city backdrop for an unforgettable Valentine’s Day. Cityscape Lounge is located on the 46th floor of Hilton San Francisco Union Square and is offering a special evening for $99 per couple (tax and gratuity included). The event includes reserved window seating for 2 for up to 1 1/2 hours, 2 glasses of Moët & Chandon Champagne, red or white wine, or specialty cocktails, a long-stemmed rose, and a dessert. Tickets are available now. 333 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. (415) 923-5002 cityscapesf.com
  • Coffee & Jazz at Farley’s Coffee: Head over to Farley’s Coffee in Potrero Hill for some coffee and jazz on Valentine’s Day from 7:30PM to 9PM with James Everett. Admission is free. Bring a bottle of wine to celebrate the occasion. 1315 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 648-1545. farleyscoffee.com

Good luck!