As the quarantine continues, Richmond’s restaurants find ways to adapt to the new economic models created by the arrival of COVID-19.
It has been a couple of months since the coronavirus/quarantine situation got serious, and in the Richmond restaurant world, people are beginning to re-evaluate their decisions. Restaurants that began by closing have reopened, while others that initially stayed open for takeout and/or delivery have closed their doors.
When the disruption began in mid-March, Shyndigz, the dessert café that everybody loves, decided to stay open and take orders through their patio. They also offered pick-up through Grubhub and UberEats. However, on April 11, an Instagram post alerted their customers that they would be closed for the foreseeable future. This affected not only their business hours, but the 10-year anniversary celebration they’d planned for June.
In the Instagram post, they were quick to assure loyal customers that the decision to close was only temporary.
“We absolutely will be open again before you know it,” the post reads. “Better than ever with exciting new menu items, completed renovations, artwork, a fantastic test kitchen, a full blown store and a 10K.”
Since then, the restaurant has taken advantage of the downtime in order to do a full remodel of their space, posting on Instagram May 13 that “our team has been a sanding, painting & creating machine.” While they haven’t announced a final reopening date, they do indicate that one is coming soon.
Secco Wine Bar is another restaurant that stayed open for a while, but ultimately ended up closing. On March 16, they suspended in-house dining and began operating by pick-up only, according to a Facebook post on their page.
Several days later, on March 19, they posted another update that they were officially closing. “It’s been a hell of a week for everyone,” the post says. “We are closing Secco for the next few weeks so we can all stay safe. We will keep you updated on delivery options as they evolve. We’ll get through this together and see you on the other side!”
By last week, they had begun engaging with the public once again, moving to a retail model in which customers could purchase bottles of wine and beer in multi-bottle sets, available for curbside pickup or delivery within a limited radius. They continue to add items to their online store, including picnic snacks, t-shirts, and other merch.
“Know this: we’re staying in the fight!” said the statement they released upon the opening of their online retail store. “Our mission is the same as it always was. We believe that drinking the good stuff is a natural right and we’re committed to making that happen for you, albeit in a new format.”
Galaxy Diner is one of the few restaurants that, instead of closing, reopened its doors after a few days off. Galaxy’s owner, Michael Pace, decided to reopen because “it looked like this pandemic was going to last a lot longer than expected, and I had employees that wanted to work,” he said.
Initially closed for two weeks, Pace continued to pay his employees, and ultimately decided to reopen on April 1. “As of now, I’m only able to employ five of the 27 [previous employees], but I’m continuing to pay health insurance,” he said.
Food delivery apps such as GrubHub and UberEats have been busy, with quite a few more restaurants signing on for delivery. Pace said he was getting more business through the apps than through take-out customers, but the profit is low due to the fees those services impose on the restaurant.
“It’s a new way for us to do business, and we’re still working the bugs out,” he said. “We’ve never done delivery in the 21 years of us doing business at Galaxy.”
Whether through closing for renovations, going to a retail model, or figuring out how to use food delivery to their business’s advantage, restaurants around Richmond are finding a variety of ways to cope with the new economic paradigm established by the quarantine. Business models will undoubtedly continue to evolve in the coming weeks, as Virginia’s reopening plan allows restaurants with outdoor patios to begin seating diners again. One thing’s for sure, though; Richmond’s restaurants will find a way.
Additional reporting by Marilyn Drew Necci. Top Photo: Secco Wine Bar, via Facebook