New Business Models In A Covid-19 World

From supermarkets, to food makers, restaurants, farms and retail stores the food industry is pivoting to meet the challenge of how to stay alive in a Covid-19 reality. In the midst of a wobbly world new innovative models including commerce, consumer confidence, and product offers are being developed.

We were curious to understand how various sectors of the food world were conducting business. So we do what we do best, we reached out to a few of our friends and asked them if they would tell us about their now, share a few insights, and comment on what the future might look like for their companies.

“Our Actions Determine Our Destiny.”Governor Andrew Cuomo 

Highlights From The Following Diva Foodies Interviews

  • Leah McGrath, corporate dietitian for Ingles Market, is using Twitter to provide a digital space for people to share their covid-cooking experiences. Leah’s goal is to encourage people to try different dishes/recipes and also get encouragement.
  • Gail Johnson, family partner at Grace 17.20, a metro Atlanta restaurant, is working on more efficient ways to conduct carry-out business which will be integrated into its model after dining service resumes.
  • Kikki  & Craig Tucker, owners Tucker Farms, a chef driven farm and culinary garden, explained there were plans to open a direct sales to individuals and families web store. The pandemic accelerated the launch of the new channel.
  • Regina Hild, owner Regina Farm Kitchen, a foodpreneur producing award winning craft fruit spreads, quickly pivoted, turned-off the news and got back to work. Her tactics included a focus on social media and developing stronger partnerships.
  • Farrah Haidar, co-owner of Seven Sisters Scones, a bakery and cafe, believes COVID accelerated trends in the retail food businesses such as, an increased focus on delivery and e-commerce along with an overall decline in retail. The benefits and challenges are opportunities to build out business models that include more efficient processes and integrate new technology.
  • Michael Ng, owner of Behind The Glass Bartending, a boutique event company focused on providing craft cocktails, thinks the event and catering industries will be slower to come back than restaurants.  In the meantime, he is focused on creatively providing new services, researching cocktail innovation, and expanding his social media presence.   

As always, our goal is to provide you with information and inspiration. Please stay safe, well and as sane as possible. We’re looking forward to seeing you strong and healthy on the other side!

Ingles Markets – Supermarket Industry 

In 1963, “Robert Ingle opened the first Ingles supermarket in Asheville, North Carolina. He saw an opportunity to invest in smaller towns and rural communities throughout North and South Carolina that were being under-served by large grocery chains.” Today Ingles Markets operates over 200 supermarkets. Source

Yes, you sure can develop relationships on social media. I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” Leah McGrath, corporate dietitian at Ingles Markets on Twitter. I very much enjoy the smart, insightful and fun tweets she kindly shares. She graciously agreed to share her insights and some of the initiatives Ingles Markets is putting into play.

Leah McGrath, Corporate Dietitian – Ingels Markets

Leah McGrath About Leah McGrath: I have been the Corporate Dietitian for Ingles Markets for almost 20 years. I provide our customers with nutrition and food information using platforms like social media, a weekly radio program, TV appearances and articles that I write for regional publications.

Diva Foodies: The corona virus pandemic has presented the supermarket industry with extraordinary challenges from supply chain disruption, ensuring customers and employees feel safe to helping customers, especially those who don’t usually cook, make smart food decisions. What has surprised you the most in terms of how grocery stores and Ingles Markets in particular have reacted to this chaotic ecosystem?

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: This is really an unprecedented event. While many regions of the country have had to deal with catastrophes and crises like hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes etc. this is the first time the whole country has been affected in such a massive way.

What has been interesting to watch is how many now recognize the role and value of our supermarkets and of the amazing variety of products we have access to fresh, frozen, canned, packaged etc.

Diva Foodies: What new business tactics e.g., operations and/or customer care is Ingeles Markets implementing during this time?

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: This is such a dynamic time…we have provided information on social distancing,  instituted touchless pay, bonuses for full and part-time associates, special store hours for seniors and immunocompromised….

Diva Foodies:  We are loving how your Twitter @InglesDietian hash tag #QuarantineKitchen is building community among culinary professionals and home cooks. Please give us a peak into the back-story of how and why this tactic was created. What do you personally want to accomplish?

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: When most of my events got cancelled and I knew I would be working from home I also realized that most people were going to be spending a lot more time cooking for themselves. I searched #QuarantineKitchen to see if anyone else had started using it and while there were a couple of posts it wasn’t being used widely so I just took it and ran with it. I thought it would be a way of encouraging people to try different dishes/recipes and also get encouragement.

 Diva Foodies: I’ve heard people in every industry say, “Business as usual will never return.”  If you were to look into your crystal ball, which changes that Ingles Market is currently implementing do you think will lead to new ways of doing business?

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: I think perhaps it is too early to see into that “crystal ball” just yet.

 Diva Foodies: You work with many foodpreneurs and farmers. What one tip can you share with food makers and farmers who are struggling to innovate in order to save their businesses during this global pandemic?

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: I have written to many of our local vendors and farmers and recommended that –

This is really the time to up their social media game to reach out to their customers and get new customers.

 Diva Foodies: On a personal note, what are you and your family doing to get through the day and help keep the stress at-bay? I’m sure our community will appreciate any ideas you can share.

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: My husband is also working from home ( he has an office set up downstairs).  We make a point of taking at least one walk together per day usually a short one at lunch and a longer one before or after dinner.  We try not to talk about COVID19 and instead just pay attention to our surroundings and use the time to relax and unwind. We have 2 dogs and they are really enjoying having us around a lot more and they are used to a routine so that also helps.

Diva Foodies: As is our tradition, the last word is yours. Wrap this up any way you’d like,

Leah McGrath, Ingels Markets: This is a stressful time for many of us. Try and think about how you can be a helper and be kind – it’s good not to focus on yourself. Make a point of calling your friends and family members and connecting.

Connect with Leah and Ingels Markets

Twitter: @InglesDietitian | Website: Ingles Markets ; Ask Leah| Facebook: Ingles Markets | Instagram: Ingles Markets 

Grace 17.20- Restaurant Industry 

Grace 17.20 is a family-owned restaurant in metro Atlanta’s Peachtree Corners community. The restaurant has a distinctive European feel to the decor and outdoor patio.

I’ve the pleasure of dining at Grace 17.20 several times, including as part of an Atlanta Food Blogger and Lifestyle Society influencer meal. Meeting Gail Johnson, family partner, was a highlight of my experience. Gail was gracious, warm, and genuine in her commitment to Grace 17.20. In our interview she felt uncomfortable focusing on herself and asked that we use the following description and photo of the lovely patio instead of one of her.

Grace 17.20 Photo Credit: @stirrup_media

Gail Johnson, Family Partner of Grace 17.20, On Gail Johnson: We began as a leap of faith over 15 years ago. Our dedicated and committed team at Grace 1720 approaches each day with one common goal: to present a unique dining experience that uplifts and inspires our guests, with everything from the creative, seasonally driven menu to the comfortable, stylish atmosphere and gracious care in service. We strive daily to make a difference in the lives of our guests, our community, and our amazing team of Grace 1720 associates.

Diva Foodies: The corona virus pandemic has presented the restaurant industry with extraordinary challenges from supply chain disruption, ensuring customers and employees feel safe. What has surprised you the most in terms of how your customers and suppliers have reacted to this chaotic ecosystem? What changes have you made to better serve your guests?

Gail Johnson, Grace 17.20:

The thing that has surprised us the most was our customers and their generosity.

They have constantly reached out asking about the employees, how they can help, and wanting us to open for take-out. They have been so encouraging. It is touching to know what an impact our restaurant has on people, even after they get up from the table and walk out the door.

We have been making changes that will make a better impression on guests when we re-open. We’ve been focusing on updates that we never had the time for. We also have taken this time to work to improve our carry-out system. We want to make sure we offer only the best menu options for carry-out, so that when guests get the food home there is no loss in quality. Some items just do not carry out as well and we always want to make sure we’re serving our guests the best, whether it’s in our restaurant or at home.

 The suppliers are having difficulty getting some supplies because the producers are not producing as much. This is because there is not a request for as much product as before so the producers can’t (don’t) continue to offer as much. As for the people we buy from, so far they are telling us they have product. As of yesterday, we have not received the pricing we asked for essentials to make our menu. We will adjust our prices as needed.

Diva Foodies: I’ve heard people in every industry say, “Business as usual will never return.”  If you were to look into your crystal ball, which changes that Grace 1720 is currently implementing do you think will lead to new ways of doing business?

Grace 17.20 Photo Credit: @stirrup_media

Gail Johnson, Grace 17.20: We are currently implementing a more efficient way to conduct our carry-out business. We’ve never really concentrated on our carry-out and this situation has allowed us to develop and improve it in ways that we will continue even once we open our dining room again. We don’t know what that will dictate but when we do open the dining room we will continue the practices we had put in place before we closed (as part of CoVID-19 safety regulations) which were:

  • Safe distancing between tables
  • The way our flatware and China is set out will be different
  • Servers will wear gloves and change often

Diva Foodies: What is one tip can you share with other restaurant owners who are struggling to innovate in order to save their businesses during this global pandemic?

Gail Johnson, Grace 17.20:

We would say don’t panic! 

It is important to have faith in your business, loyal patrons and especially your employees. We realized how important it is to have a plan in place and have the ability to adapt to change.

We are constantly talking with our employees about ways we can improve our service. It has been a great time for creativity. We keep our employees up-to-date and let them know that we are very confident that we will be reopening.

We have really begun to gain a new insight into our employees and what they have to offer.

It’s important to stay busy in times like this. There are always things you say you don’t have time for, and now we do! All in all, we are trying to remain positive and to keep morale up among our staff.

Diva Foodies: On a personal note, what are you and your family doing to get through the day and help keep the stress at-bay? I’m sure our community will appreciate any ideas you can share.

 Gail Johnson, Grace 17.20: We are not sitting. We are staying busy and planning for the future, constantly coming up with new ideas for our menu and new events we can offer etc. This has given our brains the chance to recharge, reinvigorate and be more creative. We can’t concentrate on the negative, positivity is the secret.

Connect With Grace 17.20

Website | Instagram | Facebook 

 Tucker Farms – Agriculture Industry

Tucker Farms is a sustainability focused, chef driven farm and culinary garden that was founded in 2010 on the banks of the Oostanaula River in Rome, Georgia. Up until March 15, 2020, the farm’s primary partners were chefs and “farm to table” kitchens in Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Craig and Kikki Tucker, owners Tucker Farms

About Kikki & Craig Tucker: The husband and wife team, Kikki & Craig  Tucker are the owners of Tucker Farms. Kikki is a recovering attorney who has been involved with the farm “behind the scenes” since 2009. She joined the farm full-time in 2015. After earning his degree in Construction Management and working several years in that industry, Craig began farming in 2007.

Diva Foodies: The corona virus pandemic has presented the food industry with extraordinary challenges from supply chain disruption, ensuring customers and employees feel safe to helping customers, especially those who don’t usually cook, make smart food decisions.  What has surprised you the most in terms of how farmers, in general, have reacted to this chaotic ecosystem?

Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms: Farmers are a resilient bunch, so we haven’t been surprised with how farmers have responded. We grow food and want to feed people. That’s what we do. So, though the pandemic has caused us some anxiety, and forced us to reconsider our business model, we never hesitated to keep growing.

 Diva Foodies:  How has Tucker Farms’ business model, from operation to distribution, changed?

 Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms: As a chef-driven farm, we worked directly with our chef partners. We have worked with the same people for years, we are friends, and we often correspond several times a week about menu changes, special delivery needs, etc. We had years of sales data to help guide our decisions, and we grew a lot of specialty and niche crops targeted especially for chefs.

 In response to the pandemic and related restaurant closures, we launched an online store to sell our lettuces, leafy greens, and seasonal garden vegetables directly to individuals and families in Northwest Georgia and Atlanta. Our primary crops are lettuces and salad greens, and, honestly, we weren’t really sure how folks would respond to boxes built around salads, but, so far, people have been really enthusiastic!

We are doing our best to predict sales going into the warmer season and have made some adjustments to our planting and harvesting schedules to accommodate the current environment. Obviously, we want to be ready when our chefs call on us again, and we are trying to balance that goal around what we expect individuals and families will be most likely to purchase this Summer.

In addition to our no-contact, direct web store sales, we are part of a strong network of farmers who connected us with some larger regional Community Supported Agriculture distributors such as Fresh Harvest, Carlton Farm, and Farmers Fresh CSA.

We’ve also strengthened our relationship with Garnish and Gather, which offers awesome, harvest-inspired meal kits and kitchen provisions. Like CSAs and other online food delivery providers, they have seen an uptick in business since more folks are skipping the grocery store and cooking at home.

We are making weekly donations to different community kitchens and food banks in Atlanta and Northwest Georgia, and they are key partners in ensuring that our most vulnerable neighbors have access to fresh, nutrient dense food.

In short, our methods of selling, our delivery schedule, and many of our customers have changed this season, but our commitment to growing safe, healthy and delicious food, and to offering friendly and personalized customer service, remains steady.

Tucker Farms – Salad Box

Diva Foodies: I’ve heard people in every industry say, “Business as usual will never return.” If you were to look into your crystal ball, which changes that Tucker Farms is currently implementing do you think will lead to new ways of doing business?

 Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms: At this point, we aren’t making any predictions. We remain optimistic that our restaurant partners will recover. Our relationships may look different, but we will do whatever we can to support our friends in the food and hospitality industry as small businesses and restaurants reopen.

That said, we recognize that recovery will probably be bumpy and uncertain for all of us, and we are doing our best to remain fluid and adaptive. We definitely plan to continue offering direct sales to individuals and families through our web store. We’ve considered this avenue for awhile, and the pandemic just accelerated our timeline a bit.

Diva Foodies: How do you think the farming industry will be changed?

Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms: We think that the pandemic has been a real wake-up call to the shortcomings of large-scale industrial agriculture.  People are reaching out to their local farms to secure fresh produce, eggs, meat, grains, dairy, mushrooms, and flowers.

Consumers are recognizing the value in knowing their farmers and connecting with the individuals and families who grow their food.

 

Tucker Farms – Salad Box

Diva Foodies: What one tip can you share with other farmers who are struggling to innovate in order to save their businesses during this global pandemic?

Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms: 

Take advantage of your networks!

Everyone is struggling right now, and we are stronger together. There is no way we could’ve made this quick pivot without the support of our friends at RomeGA Digital (website development) or without the partnership of the folks at Canoe, Poor Hendrix, Treehorn, Doug’s Deli, and Calhoun Drug Co. (who offered to host “no contact” pick-up locations for our farm boxes) or at Recess, Murphy’s, and Little Bear (who donated salad dressing recipes for our farm box launch). And, with virtually zero adverting budget, so many of our personal friends and neighbors have forwarded emails, shared social media posts, made calls, and sent texts on our behalf.

Plus, as we mentioned earlier, several other farmers helped us connect with some wholesale opportunities and have offered us guidance on how to manage farm box logistics and deliveries.

There is so much strength in community, and everyone is really craving that connection right now, so reach out, commiserate, share resources, and support each other!

 Diva Foodies:  On a personal note, what are you and your family doing to get through the day and help keep the stress at-bay? I’m sure our community will appreciate any ideas you can share.

Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms:  We eat lots of veggies, stay hydrated, soak up plenty of sunshine, and walk our dogs every day.  We stay in touch with our friends and family through daily texts/emails and frequent calls.

Making a point to stay connected to our people, to our food, and to the Earth helps keep us steady.

Diva Foodies:  As is our tradition, the last word is yours. Wrap this up any way you’d like,

 Kikki & Craig Tucker, Tucker Farms:  This last month has truly shown us Community Supported Agriculture at its finest. We are so blessed to be part of Georgia’s “good food community,” and we are so thankful to be on this journey with such a remarkable group of people.

Connect With Tucker Farms

Website | Web StoreFacebook |Instagram  

Regina’s Farm Kitchen – Foodpreneur aka Food Maker

With passion in her heart and a commitment to bring her artisan, small-batch jams to market, Regina Hild said goodbye to her corporate career and opened the doors of Regina’s Farm Kitchen. Growing up on a farm in Iowa including the words ‘farm kitchen’ not only makes sense but is a tribute to her family. The award winning and delicious (disclaimer Regina gifted me several jars) products are sold online and at a variety of locations in GA, NC, TN, and IA with more to come.

Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen

Regina Hild On Regina Hild: I’m forever grateful to my parents, who sacrificed to teach me and my simblings about growing up on a rural farm in Iowa during simpler times. I feel very fortunate that my work ethic is strong because my Dad and Mom instilled the same in me.

Diva Foodies: The corona virus pandemic has presented the food industry with extraordinary challenges from supply chain disruption, ensuring customers and employees feel safe to helping customers, especially those who don’t usually cook, make smart food decisions. What has surprised you the most in terms of how your customers and your suppliers have reacted to this chaotic ecosystem?

Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen:

I’m shocked how vulnerable our supply chain is to sudden changes in supply and demand.

The panic buying at the grocery store chains depleted shelves then on the other hand how quickly the food service began selling from their cold and pantry shelves to the general public. Survival mode kicked in from restaurants to bakeries to make money and pay their employees and utility bills.

 Diva Foodies: How has this influenced change Regina’s Farm Kitchen from operations to product development?

 Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen: I quickly pivoted, turned-off the news and got back to work. My website sales are up like never before.

  • My website ran a $5.00 flat rate shipping special March-May 5th.
  • We also focused directly on social media and got the word out daily!

Crabb Radermacher is my advertising and brand management company in Dunwoody. Rick Radermacher and Lori Waters along with Katelyn Elliot have helped me tremendously!

 AND, I partnered with 2 vendors who have become like family to me. KSquared Jewelry and Gifts and Simple Bread Company. Both local small businesses. Regina’s Farm Kitchen is in local shops and bakeries. My fruit spreads sell in their East Cobb and North Point stores.

  • Partnering together has made our artisan products get noticed.

Giving Back

RFK donated jam to KSquared that went to the WellStar Hospital in Kennesaw for the front-line workers. Simple Bread Company and I partnered on a Artisan Fruit Spread and Sour Dough give-away to the Giving Kitchen.

Diva Foodies: I’ve heard people in every industry say, “Business as usual will never return.”  If you were to look into your crystal ball, which changes that Regina’s Farm Kitchen  is currently implementing do you think will lead to new ways of your doing business?

Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen: I’m an optimist, and I believe business will become better -once this is all behind us.

What I have surmised during this time, is that you can pivot and make decisions easier when it’s your company.

However, that also means small businesses like me do not qualify for assistance. I’m very appreciative of my existing and new customers that ordered online. What the numbers are showing is that we have continued to meet and exceed our customers who love our product and relate to the flavors, the stories, and the memories being made while enjoying Regina’s Farm Kitchen in their homes!

View this post on Instagram

/Fruit Spread/ Hello Basket fullllllll of yumminess 😁 Jambassadors! As we all struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy, I'm doing my best to stick with our daily normal routine. Food has always been a comfort for me and being in the kitchen "re-focuses" me. I made Banana- Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins and slathered these beauties with Blueberry 🍋fruit spread! That's why Regina's Farm Kitchen website orders for $5.00 Flat Rate Shipping in all orders taken from our website now through April 18th! Hey, I hear you 😊🌶🍊🍋🍓🍑🍎😘 Our lives will be a bit topsy turvy in the coming weeks, maybe months, but I plan to use this time at home to develop NEW Jam flavors + cook/bake family favorites + get some things checked off my "To Do Home List that have been lingering there since 🎄.What are you doing today? What brings you joy today? #reginasfarmkitchen #shoplocal #joy #instafood #atlantafood #dunwoody #madeinga #together #atlantafoodies #breakfast #buttermilk #muffins #covid #comfortfood #locallymade #downtownalpharettafarmersmarket #awesomealpharetta #roswellshopping #buckheadatlanta #brookhavenfarmersmarket

A post shared by ReginasFarmKitchen (@reginasfarmkitchen) on

Diva Foodies: What one tip can you share with other food makers who are struggling to innovate in order to save their businesses during this global pandemic?

Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen: I would tell them to offer a special deal to their customers. I would also encourage them to help others and be generous and kind to those in need. Lastly, encourage them to take time and work “inside” of your business and strategize during this time.

 Diva Foodies:  On a personal note, what are you and your family doing to get through the day and help keep the stress at-bay? I’m sure our community will appreciate any ideas you can share.

Regina and Bella

Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen: My family and I have spent the month of March in the backyard weeding the flowers beds, planting herb containers- garden, and netting the blueberry bushes.  I also spend many afternoons baking and cooking meals for families and surprising them with home-cooked meals.

 Diva Foodies:  As is our tradition, the last word is yours. Wrap this up any way you’d like.

Regina Hild, Regina’s Farm Kitchen: My company motto “made from scratch by a farm-raised chef” and JFDI like my brand manager tells me weekly.

 Connect With Regina’s Farm Kitchen

Website  | Facebook | Instagram

 

Seven Sisters Scones Retail, Bakery, Catering

Often sisters are BFFs. And sometimes sisters are BBFFs – best ‘business’ friends forever. Seven Sisters Scones, and yes there really are 7 sisters!, opened their doors with a unique view on what they call modern scones. You can enjoy interesting flavor profiles like fig and goat cheese, jalapeno, Green Olive & Cheddar; and of course there are more traditional scones like blueberry are available.

Farrah Haidar About Farrah Haidar: I am the co-owner of Seven Sisters. After a long and varied career in marketing I decided to open up a bakery and café, Seven Sisters Kitchen, and an online gourmet treat store, Seven Sisters Scones, with my sister, Hala Yassine. She manages all marketing and operations for both businesses and, wisely, leaves the cooking in her capable sister’s hands. When not promoting Seven Sisters or taping boxes, I can be found running after my two kids and hanging with my husband.

Diva Foodies: The corona virus pandemic has presented the food industry with extraordinary challenges from supply chain disruption, ensuring customers and employees feel safe to helping customers, especially those who don’t usually cook, make smart food decisions.

What has surprised you the most in terms of how your customers and your suppliers have reacted to this chaotic ecosystem?

Farrah Haidar, Seven Sisters Scones: The most surprising aspect has definitely been customer’s reactions. The outpouring of support and love has been humbling. I think people realized how much they appreciate, trust, and value local businesses. So many people mentioned how they were scared to eat out but they trusted us to serve them. That level of trust is humbling and thought-provoking.

The second thing that, not necessarily surprised, but made me nervous was how fragile our food supply chain is. We have grown accustomed to being able to access almost any ingredient at any time by the click of a button. Shortages of food items is nerve wracking and adds stress to an already stressful time.

Diva Foodies: How has this influenced changes in Seven Sister’s current business model?

Farrah Haidar, Seven Sisters Scones: It’s definitely shifted the mix of our business. We used to be very heavy on retail traffic and catering. When that tanked because of COVID, we shifted our focus into reaching customers off-premise, upping our nationwide shipping and expanding our take-out and delivery. It forced us to build out processes and technology that we were slowly building before. The truth is that we have seen these trends coming for a long-time – increased focus on delivery, increased ecommerce, decline in retail. COVID just accelerated all of it.

Diva Foodies:  I’ve heard people in every industry say, “Business as usual will never return.”  If you were to look into your crystal ball, which changes that Seven Sisters Scones is currently implementing do you think will lead to new ways of doing business?

Farrah Haidar, Seven Sisters Scones: No doubt the face of retail has shifted permanently. I think the unspoken part of it is that we were already headed towards trouble. Trends like much higher minimum wages, skyrocketing rent, volatile and significantly increased cost of food, the popularity of third-party facilitators like Uber, EZcater were making deep cuts into profitability and viability. We already had a small shipping operation in place. COVID accelerated the expansion of that aspect of our business as well as pursuing off-premise retail channels such as grocery stores, large retail chains, etc…  

It is my belief that the industry as a whole will pivot and we’ll see two distinct differentiators – increased shipping of food items and a high emphasis on in-store experiences that can be taken virtual, if needed.

For example, local bakeries were putting together DIY cookie kits for people to do at home. Some chefs created cooking kits and then streamed a class on how to cook the kit. AirBnB shifted from offering places to stay to having people sign up for virtual classes and experiences. All the infrastructure that’s been built out combined with how we have re-wired consumers is going to manifest itself in the birth of many different services. It’s a time of loss and great exploration.

Diva Foodies: What one tip can you share with other cafes, bakeries and caterer who are struggling to innovate in order to save their businesses during this global pandemic?

Farrah Haidar, Seven Sisters Scones: Don’t stay married to the same idea. Look at what you are good at and who it can be useful to.

You have to explore alternate ways of producing revenue whether that is bringing on new partners, offering new services, or initiating ecommerce.

There are models to look at already. You’re a bakery? Look at how Tiff’s Treats reaches consumers. You’re a caterer? Look at some meal delivery services. Café? Replicate the café experience with DIY coffee kits and virtual poetry nights. Stay on people’s radars in any way possible, generating as much revenue as you can till this is over. If you disappear now, you risk disappearing permanently.

Diva Foodies:  On a personal note, what are you and your family doing to get through the day and help keep the stress at-bay? I’m sure our community will appreciate any ideas you can share.

Farrah Haidar, Seven Sisters Scones: Hala and I are both optimists. We strongly believe that things can get better. So, we focus only on what we can control. We don’t borrow tomorrow’s problems for today. Today’s problems are more than enough.

And laugh – laugh a lot, celebrate the silly, step back, think about the big picture,  and squeeze the people you love tightly.

Diva Foodies:  As is our tradition, the last word is yours. Wrap this up any way you’d like,

Farrah Haidar, Seven Sisters Scones: There’s no way around this – it’s a difficult time to be in this business. We’re going to see a lot of changes and a lot of heartbreak before this is over. The best thing we can do is support one another. If you have a question about anything I’ve said, feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to talk to people in the industry.

Seven Sisters’ Blueberry Scone

Connect With Seven Sisters’ Kitchens

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Behind The Glass Bartending – Fine Beverages/Event Company

What began as a just a job to pay for grad school, led to a passion for Michael NG to create unique cocktails. In 2013, Michael launched Behind The Glass (BTG) Bartending. His commitment was to provide customers with exciting, custom, crafted drinks wrapped in a memorable, entertaining experience. His success is built on attention to the smallest details from ingredients to presentation.

Michael Ng, Owner BTG Bartending

Diva Foodies: The corona virus pandemic has presented the food industry with extraordinary challenges from supply chain disruption, ensuring customers and employees feel safe to helping customers, especially those who don’t usually cook, make smart food decisions.  What has surprised you the most in terms of how your customers and your suppliers have reacted to this chaotic ecosystem?

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: People are eagerly flocking to restaurants and bars as they open up in stages according to local and state COVID-19 measures, but it seems the public doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the industries related to catering and private events. 

For myself and what I hear from my peers in the private events industry, there has been little to no traction.  

 Diva Foodies: Since your company is focused on in-person special events how has the pandenic influenced changes in Behind The Glass Bartending from operations to product development?  

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: Clients started cancelling events in early March and by mid-March, business was decimated.  From promotions to events, communications have either halted or plans have been put on indefinite hiatus.  We had thought to do promotional media campaigns for different companies, but all the plans have been put on hold.  There has been no contact from current or potential clients since March.  

 We are devoting this extra time into research for cocktail innovation and business optimization.  In addition we are allocating resources to things we can control such as social media engagement and content creation.  

 Diva Foodies:  I’ve heard people in every industry say, “Business as usual will never return.” If you were to look into your crystal ball, which changes that BTG Bartending  is currently implementing do you think will lead to new ways of your doing business?

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: Especially for the special events industry, our industry is at the mercy of local government COVID-19 rules.  Event spaces have all been shut down and most likely will the be the last to open up as they are deemed non-essential.  We are already missing the beginning of the busy season as the weather warms up.  

 Events such as weddings, which most in the industry rely on for the biggest sources of income, for the summer have been cancelled.  Graduation parties, Independence day, and Memorial day are other critical holidays for the special events industry.  Essentially, the summer season is one of the most lucrative seasons for anyone in the industry that we will lose out on as this business relies on cycles during the year where there are specific months that peak.

We are using this time to research into other services that can be offered.  For instance, we are looking into selling dehydrated fruit garnish as well as expanding our social media presence to be an online resource for bartending  in order to improve our reach.  

 Aside from new ways of doing business, I think businesses should make more of a point to save up money for emergencies.  Attempt to diversify the current business or explore other opportunities to run in conjunction for at least one other source of income-especially one that can be done online or doesn’t require face-to-face contact.  

BTG Bartending Mixes Up Some Creative and Delicious Cocktails!

 Diva Foodies: The country is beginning to reopen. What will you do to help your clients feel ‘safe’ and comfortable engaging your services?

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: We can follow strict guidelines as advised by local governments and the CDC. Comfort levels will increase as retail businesses and restaurants open up. I think the public will follow the lead of what’s going on outside before planning private events. So, people the special events industry will have to be patient.

The public is still wary about COVID-19 and I think the psychological residue will linger for a little while even as businesses open up. I think we will have to be patient.

 Diva Foodies: What one tip can you share with other food makers who are struggling to innovate in order to save their businesses during this global pandemic?

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: Use this time to examine your business from top to bottom and see what can be improved. The special events industry can move at a break-neck pace, so use this precious time to hone your craft.  Research and experiment for new ideas. Study other businesses that have achieved the success you aspire to and learn from them. 

Look into the market and see if there is a need that has not been met and/or see if you can improve on something that is already being offered.  Be honest with yourself and your business and honest results will come forth.  

Contact possible clients and/or other vendors for networking opportunities through Facebook and Instagram.  Collaborations on social media can exponentially increase your audience and provide future references.

Time is money.  Even though you are not making money now, challenge yourself during this time for future self-investment.  

 Diva Foodies:  On a personal note, what are you and your family doing to get through the day and help keep the stress at-bay? I’m sure our community will appreciate any ideas you can share.

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: Redirect the stress energy to being productive in your business.  Perhaps contact others in the industry for peer support.  Plan out ideas and projects with each other!  Go work out, read, or learn a new skill/pursue a hobby.

 I’d say avoid activities that are passive in nature such as watching TV unless it has some educational value. It’s too easy to get lost into hours and hours of TV when you can be improving yourself mentally/physically/spiritually.  

 Lastly, create a daily schedule for yourself or do some goal setting day to day, week to week, and month to month.  

Diva Foodies:  As is our tradition, the last word is yours. Wrap this up any way you’d like.

The @btgbartending Instagram Page Looks Like A Party!

Michael NG, Behind The Glass Bartending: Time is a precious commodity.  View unexpected change as a flexible opportunity to excel and/or learn.  Start small and constantly build upon the tiny steps. 

Every time I lose my bearings, I find my compass by retracing back to my roots for inspiration.  

Connect with Michael NG – BTG Bartending!

Website | Instagram |Twitter

Author: Toby Bloomberg

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