Resourceful Restaurateurs Sell Groceries to Help Communities Amid CCP Virus Outbreak

April 1, 2020 Updated: April 1, 2020

As government efforts to slow the spread of the CCP virus brought the hospitality industry to its knees, some restaurants have found creative ways to help their communities and somewhat stay afloat. Many have started selling and delivering groceries and meal kits, responding to the empty shelves many a shopper found at their grocery store as people vacuumed up inventory to stock up.

The newfound grocery niche, often offering gourmet selection of high quality meats and cheeses as well as basics like eggs, flour, and toilet paper, seems to be in good demand, some restaurateurs have told The Epoch Times. Some also approach it with a charitable spirit, trying to keep staff on the payroll and help out people in need.

The CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan around November 2019 and was allowed to spread across China and the world due to a coverup and mismanagement by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Many U.S. states have banned eat-in restaurants in an effort to mitigate the resulting epidemic.

Community Need

Boomer Godsill, owner of Original Sunrise Cafe in Boise, Idaho, saw the epidemic tanking his business even before the government intervention.

As the run on staples set on, his wife was unable to find necessities at the crocery store. On the same day, Godsill talked to the distributor for his business, who didn’t mention anything about supply shortages.

“Everything kind of just clicked at once in me,” he said in a phone call.

As he learned, there are in fact two food distribution systems. One for retailers and one for the hospitality industry.

“The one that were supplying the retail stores, they were so far behind and out of things that they couldn’t catch up. Yet they still weren’t talking to my distributors,” Godsill said.

He started bringing in all kinds of supplies from his sources, from toilet paper to salt and flour, made a simple spreadsheet with prices, and posted it on the Facebook page for his business.

The next day, he was inundated with orders.

“I knew we had something,” he said. “I knew there was a service the community needed.”

He spent the night creating an electronic system to manage the business as well as a website where people could order. He and his staff also started to drive around to do the deliveries in about a 60 mile radius. However, he wants to go further, and is considering UPS shipping to other states.

The business has been growing, he said, and he’s now bringing other local stores on board to sell and deliver their products. Within the next few weeks, he’d like to get to a point where he could bring back the half of the employees he recently had to let go.

“There’s such a need for what we’re doing,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going.”

Who’s Hiring?

Completely reorganizing one’s business takes a lot of work, acknowledged Nick Sharp, co-owner of Threefold Cafe, which has several locations in Florida’s Miami area.

For the past two weeks, he and his managers have been working 16-20 hours a day to switch their model from eat-in to curbside pickup of family meal kits and groceries.

But the result is a rapidly expanding business.

“The food service supply chain is so far overstocked that there is food everywhere at crazy prices,” he said via email. “We are packaging that up and selling to people.”

After putting the new options on his website, he was getting about 10 orders a day. “We now do 125 a day and expect to be doing 500 by the end of the week,” he said.

He’s been able to keep on all his staff and expects to soon start hiring, perhaps 10 more people.

The next step, he said, is to commission staff at other restaurants to cook for his family meal program.

“This way, each restaurant keeps their own people working in their own environments,” he said. “We are starting that this week and expect to have 3 locations being paid to prepare commissary food for us.”

In addition, they set up a food bank to provide meals for people who’ve lost their jobs and all the food they can’t use is donated to charities.

“We will donate over 1,000 cases of produce this coming week alone,” he said. “That feeds a lot of people.”

All that was possible thanks to the support of everybody involved. Setting up of the model was supported by $15,000 raised from donations. Suppliers have donated food. A friend of Sharp’s provided a 20,000-foot refrigerated warehouse.

Sharp himself has shared all profits from the endeavor with his staff.

Sanitize Every 10 Minutes

Aside from curbside and delivery, Locale Italian Kitchen in Las Vegas is keeping its doors open for people to come and shop for groceries. Strict hygiene rules apply though.

“We let one guest in at a time, sanitize main areas every 10 minutes and wear gloves when packaging to go food,” said Nicole Brisson, executive chef and partner at the establishment, in a Facebook message.

She had to get the soap used in hospitals as their hands were getting raw from washing so often.

The idea to expand the business came “pretty quickly,” she said, after they nixed eating in and the curbside was slow.

She wanted to support her vendors, who were hit hard by the restaurant closures, and meanwhile, patrons started asking for meat, flour, bleach, and whatever was missing in grocery stores.

“I still feel like our model is changing daily,” she said. “We are almost a full blown market now!”

This week, they started family dinner packages. For $50, they offered lasagna, chicken parmigiana, or rigatoni Bolognese with salad and a bottle of wine—enough to feed 3-6 people.

“This was a huge success,” she said.

The epidemic forced her to let go of all staff besides managers, but as the business picks up, she hopes to start bringing people back.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab