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Kevin Lillis had the unfortunate timing of opening his latest restaurant, Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden in Dallas, in early March.
Before his staff even got their feet under them, Lillis, like all other restaurant operators, had to close his dining room as stay-at-home orders were put in place to try to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that had swept the planet.
They hadn’t even had a chance to implement their delivery plans, when suddenly that and takeout were their only service options.
So the Jaxon staff got creative, both to keep money coming in and to get the attention of customers and potential customers.
Like many restaurateurs, Lillis started selling groceries to his customers, making use of the fact that, although supply chains for supermarkets had been overwhelmed by demand, foodservice channels still had all the produce, eggs bread and other staples that customers could want.
He also landed a contract with José Andrés’ hunger relief organization World Central Kitchen to prepare meals for local hospitals.
On top of that beverage director Alex Fletcher started doing daily virtual cocktail classes on Instagram, and made takeout cocktails available to match.
Those measures seemed to work. When Jaxon was allowed to open its dining room at 25% capacity on May 1, the restaurant ended up doing about a third of the business Lillis said they would do under normal circumstances, meaning they actually had a profitable weekend.
The six-week shutdown gave Lillis the opportunity to try things that never would have occurred to him under normal circumstances. Learn more about them by listening to this podcast.
This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary