July 9, 2020 | by Lisa Mattson

There are copious amounts of headlines in the news about how restaurants and many other businesses are struggling to adapt during this pandemic. As a wine list-focused brand, Jordan has been assisting restaurants where we are able to: highlighting restaurants open for take-out, social media posts…. and much more. In our latest email to our trade partners, we asked Shawn Virene for an inside look into how he adapted his restaurant during COVID-19. While we asked for a short description, his story is insightful and we decided to leave it uncut.

Welcome back!!!

First and foremost I hope that everyone reading this is doing ok, and I am sorry for all the hardship this pandemic has brought to us all.

I will start at the beginning from when we got news about the lockdown. I was having a glass of wine or two with a friend. Then the word came that all non-essential businesses would have to shut their doors. I was flooded with anxiety and mixed emotions. Where will this leave my restaurant and its 100 loyal employees? I didn’t know if I wanted to transform into a to-go business. I thought about laying it down and just waiting for the go-ahead to reopen. My wife convinced me otherwise and we immediately began to develop a plan. We came up with a travel-friendly small menu and got it out to market the next day. This whole experience has made me more conscious of how important a robust email database and social media base really is. I have been curating an email list over the past 20 years of all the people that I have met through the industry. This is one of the biggest reasons we were able to succeed through the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, we were forced to think outside the box in terms of product offerings. We found offering a package deal on wine and a family meal was a huge success. We also are offering 10% off of our already competitively priced wine list, if ordered alongside a meal. Enticing pictures of the daily specials helped to attract our customer’s attention–and allowed me to use my photography skills. The minute the email blast was sent out people would start calling in their orders. Although we could not service our guests in-house, it was great to see the community daily either via deliveries or curbside pickups.

Then we got the word that we could open up at 25% capacity and had very little time to prepare. We got our staff back to work as quickly as we could, training and cleaning the restaurant for two straight days. The question on my mind was will people come? Well, they did and we are so grateful for it. Additionally, as many wine vendors were offering incentives to purchase product, I was able to take advantage and re-stock our wine inventory that we depleted over the last two months. So now we are able to offer wine at an even better deal, which helps our guests who are watching their wallets. Many of our guests were thrilled to be able to come out into the community again and we are so happy to be able to serve them. As this is such a new environment for everyone, we are adapting and listening to what the customers are wanting. The to-go business is still strong and we are always coming up with new things for guests to participate in at home. We implemented an oyster shucking at your doorstep with a bottle of Champagne, and it is gangbusters. The best advice I can give is to be creative, get feedback, and push it out to your guests. You know the saying “If you build it, they will come”!!!

I am curious to see how the future plays out for the restaurant and wine business. Nothing is for certain except people are always going to need a great meal, wine, and companionship. Stay safe and thank you for your support.