Company Name: Grain & Grit Collective — Little Italy Food Hall, Not Not Tacos, Carnitas’ Snack Shack, Graze by Sam the Cooking Guy, and Broken Yolk Café (Costa Mesa and Orange).
Type of business: Hospitality Group
How have you changed your business in response to COVID-19?
For us, it started out with takeout service and delivery, and now we are getting back to in-person dining. We’ve focused on new technologies, contactless payments and educating our team members on everything from how to properly handle food to how to process a contactless order. We are looking to reduce contact points, such as the use of paper menus, without losing the ability to provide a good customer experience.
It’s very difficult to make money right now. For us, to-go service and delivery are recognitions that the world has changed, and we need to respond to that. I look at it as an investment in the future on how we can serve our guests going forward. For instance, we now offer a take-and-bake flatbread, which can be ready in seven minutes, and it’s been an easy product to sell. We’re looking at technology and different apps to improve response times and will be launching our own delivery. One thing that is fascinating is that our guests are now more willing to experiment with technology, so we are leaning into that.
What keeps you hopeful?
One of our core values is caring and kindness. Now we just ask our guests for patience and caring and kindness. We’ve gone to our employees—people who have just been through a hard time— and asked them to implement a number of drastic safety precautions, while also asking them to provide the same level hospitality and the same quality level of service. We just ask our guests for their patience and understanding as we navigate these obstacles and do our best to give them the most compelling guest experience through these new means.
Also, the response to our Hardship Relief Fund for our employees has been great. We were able to raise $25,000 through the sale of gift cards, retail products we launched in collaboration with Sam the Cooking Guy, and virtual cooking events. It is a program we plan to continue to grow into the future.
I really believe what has me hopeful is our people. My advice to other businesses is to invest in your people even though it’s difficult. It has been inspiring to see how our team is working together.
What is the one thing you are looking forward to doing when things return to normal-ish?
I have three boys—ages 8, 6 and 3—and I’m really looking forward to getting our family back into team sports to share those experiences and camaraderie with the other families. The overarching thing for me is that it is easy to look at the negatives, but when you realize there are some things you just can’t control, it lets you see the good, and there has been plenty of good throughout all of this.