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How top restaurants are fighting to keep their industry alive

Restaurants

Top restaurants around the world have had to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic but many are diversifying in the fight to keep their industry alive.

Hospitality is an industry of creatives, home to resilient chefs, passionate sommeliers and eager front-of-house staff. It is an industry that has long brought people together. However, with one-quarter of the world’s population now in lockdown and an estimated 80% of global hospitality workers’ jobs at risk, restaurants have gone into survival mode.

Sydney

Since the Australian government’s announcement of the closure of all non-essential services in a bid to ensure people stay home, restaurants were required to shut their doors to dine-in customers. Some chose to close, while others changed their business model entirely.

Fratelli Fresh, part of the Rockpool Bar & Grill empire, has taken its grocery delivery service to the next level with family meal packs and DIY cocktail kits.

In light of the pandemic, Fratelli Fresh transformed its Italian restaurant business into a grocery and meal delivery service, rebadged as Fratelli Fresh Grocer.

The initial list of items available for delivery – including fresh meals (beef or vegetarian lasagne, and pumpkin, chicken, and vegetable soups), house-made pasta sauces (Bolognese, pesto, lamb ragu), dry goods (pasta, flour, sugar, rice), tinned produce, fresh fruit and vegetables, and beverages – has expanded, due to demand.

The service now also includes family meal packs such as DIY pizza and salad kits, family-sized roast chicken, beef burger packs, bangers and mash, and a bacon and eggs breakfast combination. The drinks list of Fratelli Fresh wine, six-packs of beer, and spirits has also expanded with DIY cocktail kits to make a gin and tonic, Negroni, Aperol spritz or a Margarita.

Sydney’s seafood-focused diner Saint Peter, headed by Josh Niland, is cooking a dish a day. Customers can pre-order via fishbutchery.com.au before midday and pick up from 3pm. All meals are built for four but can also be made for two. Check the restaurant’s Instagram to see what dishes are coming next.

A list of Sydney restaurants (city and surrounds) now offering takeaway can be found here.

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Fratelli Fresh Aperol spritz

New York

The New York Times states that figures from Resy, a national reservation platform for high-end restaurants, indicate that business on 11 March 2020 was down by 20% across the US from a year ago. It was down by 30% just in New York City alone. Additionally, New York’s cancellation rate was 45% higher than usual.

According to Eater, the owner and chef of Persian restaurant Taste of Persia, Saeed Pourkay, is now offering some of his most popular dishes for delivery. Pourkay started delivering after making an announcement to his followers on Instagram. He provides dishes to customers anywhere in the city.

Some restaurants with alcohol licences have also transformed themselves into bottle shops selling spirits, wine and beer. Restaurants known for their wine lists – Hart’s, Cervo’s, The Fly, Fausto, LaLou – organised a one-day cellar sale to bring in revenue. Alternatively, others pivoted to become more traditional retail shops.

“We essentially rewrote our business model and divided and conquered,” Caleb Ganzer, sommelier and managing partner at Nolita-based La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, told Eater. It has grown into an all-delivery venture, using two salaried employees’ cars to deliver wine and charcuterie to customers throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.”

For NYC-based restaurants offering delivery or takeaway, see here.

Singapore

“I’m currently very happy to be located in Singapore,” Stephan Zoisl, Director, chef and founder of Singapore’s Chef’s Table, tells The CEO Magazine. “The country and government here took the virus seriously. Therefore we are in one of the better situations right now, where we at least can still operate.

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An image of Singapore’s Chef’s Table from their Facebook page

“We have our hygiene measures in place as usual, and we make sure that no-one works when feeling unwell. We do have fewer stocks in the house wine, and we do smaller orders to deal with the 20–30% loss in sales.”

Other restaurants in the Lion City have also risen to the challenge with island-wide delivery and new takeaway menus, as well as meal delivery to healthcare workers.

Time Out Singapore also reports that This Alma by Juan Amador at Goodwood Park Hotel is donating 800 lunch boxes over the next six weeks.

The World Gourmet Summit has also brought together 20 fine-dining restaurants to prepare lunch for 1,000 healthcare workers at Sengkang General Hospital.

For Singapore-based restaurants offering delivery or takeaway, check here.

London

London-based restaurants are also broadening their offerings, with many fine-dining institutions sending out food via Deliveroo. Those options are here.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that British chef Jeremy Chan of Ikoyi is taking a wait-and-see approach. The West African-inspired fine-dining restaurant in St. James’s Market near Piccadilly Circus shut down on 21 March 21. Chan decided to keep his staff on regular salary and planned to do so until 3 April, after which they would all go into ‘emergency pay’ – the same amount paid to everyone to cover rent and living.

Chan decided against takeaway or delivery. But he is trying to see if those services will be part of a “post-pandemic Ikoyi”. He tells Bloomberg, “A zero-contact delivery and takeaway system. Thoroughly sanitised boxes, with our signature sauces ready to go, and a recipe card to help you put the dishes together. You show up at the door with a code and pick it up. No contact.”

Paris

Things are stricter in France, with life for hospitality staff even more challenging. The whole nation is in full lockdown. People can only leave home for essential items, medical care, caring for a child, essential work, or small amounts of solitary exercise in their neighbourhood. A specific form needs to be filled to attain permission to go outside.

The city, once known for its dining and drinking culture, remains quiet. It is a recognised fact that the French lifestyle is unique compare to those of other parts of the world. Takeaway and delivery is not so essential to the French. And although their chefs are staying put for now, they are not silent. Many are continuing to interact with diners through social media to ensure that loyal customers return when the lockdown is lifted.

It is safe to say that the antisocial impact of COVID-19 has the capability to destroy the work of chefs and restaurateurs, who for the past three decades have completely transformed the dining scene. The future is, therefore, unlikely to match the past.

Now more than ever, it is vital to support an industry that has always been there for us.

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