Sonya Sanford, owner of modern Jewish deli Beetroot, was starting to feel better: Her business, open just around six months, had gone through the slower winter period, and she was beginning to see things pick up again as the weather warmed. When the first Multnomah County resident tested positive for COVID-19, however, things plummeted.
“We saw a massive drop in sales, like 50 percent,” she says. “I know there are people who are suffering more, I acknowledge that privilege, but there’s no one not affected by this.”
This week, Sanford decided to make a serious change: To accommodate vulnerable populations who hope to social-distance, she’s going to transition the business into delivery and takeout only during the outbreak. Starting today, Sanford will only offer takeout at the deli. She’ll close the business on Saturday and Sunday to develop a meal service for those seeking comfort foods without exposure to restaurant dining rooms or grocery stores. When she reopens, customers will be able to order delivery and pick-up.
The delivery service is still in development; Sanford doesn’t want to use any third-party apps like Caviar or Postmates, just to have oversight of the entire process; instead, employees will help with deliveries. The restaurant is double-sanitizing all equipment and using gloves, as another safety precaution.
“We’re working on figuring out the demand,” she says. “We want to accommodate as much as possible. But we also are trying to figure out how can we accommodate vulnerable communities.”
Sanford isn’t the only one making this shift. Submarine Hospitality restaurants like Italian mainstay Ava Gene’s and Tusk are working on special to-go menus ordered online or by phone, so customers don’t have to exchange money when they arrive. Buzzy Thai barbecue bar Eem has also started offering takeout, a dramatic shift considering the restaurant is known for its wrap-around-the-block lines.
A major concern of Sanford’s is how the overall supply chain will change over the next few weeks: There’s a possibility her usual farmers and producers won’t be able to provide the things she needs for her current menu, which may change offerings. Still, she’s sure one particular dish will remain on the menu.
“Definitely soups, there’s no question that soup is a central part of what we offer,” Sanford says. “Whatever happens, we can always figure out soup.”