THE covid19 crisis forced many businesses to innovate. Some had to migrate their entire operations online while others had to adapt to having all staff work remotely.
The restaurant industry, though originally allowed to open within the first few weeks of lockdown, had to shut down due to public health concerns.
Some businesses took the weeks off to adapt their business model to new customer needs. Others reinvented the business to be available in grocery stores as grab-and-go options during lockdown.
Now that lockdown restrictions are slowly being removed, restaurants are showing how they have changed.
A doughnut and coffee delivery service is coming soon to Donut Boys and Rituals, said Anthony Sabga-Aboud, director of Global Brands. Global Brands is the parent company of Rituals, Donut Boys, Wok N Roll, Pizza Boys and Church’s Chicken.
When restaurant restrictions were lifted, Rituals began offering a range of brew-it-yourself coffees in either whole bean or pre-ground packages in three flavours: Sumatran, Brazilian and Ritual’s own coffee blend available in the cafes.
Sabga-Aboud said its team is trying to work out the details for Rituals’ chiller mix for consumers to make at home. They are working on the labelling and pricing for the chiller mix and hope to launch in the next 30 days.
Customers can now order doughnuts online at Donut Boys by paying online and pick up at a the store. The company is also working on delivery options for Donut Boys and Rituals. Global Brands recently introduced delivery services for Church’s Chicken and Pizza Boys.
Regarding coffee delivery, the Rituals team is still trying to work out the logistics of transporting hot and cold products. Sabga-Aboud said they are thinking about using insulated cups to keep the product, be it latte or chiller, at the right temperature.
Domino’s has introduced a totally contactless way of ordering pizza. Franchise holder Daniel Fakoory told Newsday Domino’s customers can now order and pay online.
Like Global Brands, Domino’s uses the payment gateway provider First Atlantic Commerce. A payment gateway is an online banking platform that provides businesses with the ability to authorise online payments from credit cards.
When the Domino’s driver is on the way, the customer will be alerted. When the driver arrives, the pizza will be placed on a pedestal for collection. This ensures no contact between the customer and the Domino’s staff.
Fakoory said Domino’s has been planning to roll out the online payment platform prior to the pandemic, and covid19 provided the need to put their plans in action.
To stay afloat during lockdown, Woodford Café adapted its business model from a family and friends restaurant to a frozen-to-fresh grab-and-go meal production service.
Benny Hatem, owner of Woodford Cafe told Newsday via e-mail, covid19 forced the restaurant industry to innovate and innovate quickly.
“They always say necessity is the mother of invention and innovation… There was a necessity for good quality food to be available for the market. We took up the challenge to find ways to make it accessible, easy to use and delicious while operating within the guidelines of the Ministry of Health.”
Hatem reached out to food distributors and now has 16 distribution points including Woodford Cafe through curbside pickup, JTA Supermarkets at Cross Crossing and C3 Centre, San Fernando, all Superpharm locations, Blooms Imports, Bottlestop Maraval and St Christopher’s. Woodford Cafe also delivers via the Food Drop app.
“We needed to ensure that all locations we distribute with could not only guarantee affordable price points with resale, but could guarantee that our quality of product could be sustained with their frozen goods.”
Hatem plans on expanding to new locations soon but is cautious about Woodford’s expansion by scale.
“We also scaled our availability slowly to ensure that we could handle the demand and maintain quality at all locations.”
People can pick up beef, chicken, seafood and vegetable lasagne, chicken breast Alfredo, shepherd’s pie, barbecue pork ribs and jerk, barbecue and Buffalo wings.
The frozen-to-fresh meals have been on the market for five weeks and so far, Hatem said he received “great” feedback from customers and he’s happy that people are appreciating the meals.
“When we built our convenient cooking line of products, we did it to meet the growing demands of a single parent wishing to provide a wholesome meal for the family, or the career-oriented family wishing to indulge in bringing the restaurant experience to their table. Since Woodford Cafe prides itself in promoting a family and friends atmosphere, it's here we revolutionise our meal preferences of ‘Frozen to Fresh’ concepts.”
Chinese food restaurants typically do not offer delivery options. However, Fai’s Chinese Restaurant on the Eastern Main Road, Tunapuna, used to deliver in the 90s. After a series of mishaps in delivering, including accidents with the delivery vehicle, Fai’s management ended delivery after 15 years.
When the lockdown restrictions allowed restaurants to operate, Fai’s management decided to resume delivery because it wanted to offer an additional service to the customers, especially since foot traffic would still be low.
Jenny Lin, owner of Fai’s, said her customers were happy for the option. Fai’s delivery radius reaches to St Joseph in the west and as far east as Trincity, but exceptions can be made if given sufficient time.
One thing she hopes her customers understand is that Fai’s would need some time to fulfil the orders as they have only one driver. Sometimes Lin will help with delivery.
The Hotel Normandie is now in the bread baking business, as the hotel is offering freshly-baked bread for pick up.
Janine Aqui, operations manager, said the hotel is working on a new business model.
Normandie was one of the few hotels that stayed open during lockdown, providing rooms for people commuting from Tobago to Trinidad. Normandie also had a few Trinidadian customers who had a bit of “cabin fever” and needed to get a room away from their homes.
“We can’t have in-house dining, so we are going to create a new take-out menu including bread,” Aqui said.
Some of the items for order include plait loaf, banana bread, coconut bake, coconut sweetbread, egg salad, vegetable quiche, scones, apple pie, coconut roll, currants roll, bake and shark bites, fish cakes, Buffalo wings, fried calamari and seasoned fries.
Normandie’s team, however, needs time to prepare the bread, so Aqui said people must call two days in advance.
“Our food is hot. We aren’t making it and it’s sitting down. So, we need two days in advance so our kitchen team can prep. Customers can call or e-mail and we will cook to order.”
Marie-Noelle Pantin, owner of Z’s Grill Shack in Tobago is trying to morph her fine-dining restaurant into a takeaway service.
Z’s Grill Shack offered grilled lobster, fish stakes, lamb chops, stakes and chicken as mains for dinner with sides such as sweet potato parmesan cheesecake and plantain. After dinner, because there was a bar next door, cutters included barbecue wings and saltfish accra.
“We try to use local dishes in a fine dining product,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Z’s Grill Shack was a popular place in Pleasant Prospect with mostly locals as their clientele. Z’s opened in April 2019 and was slowly gaining popularity among tourists and had a five-star rating on TripAdvisor.
To try and reignite their business, Z’s is having a barbecue on Saturday with a canned food drive to donate to families in need. Management is also working on having its fine dining meals turned into a takeaway menu.