After weathering a rocky few weeks, operators in Texas and Florida are finding ways to share with customers, letting diners know their doors are open again or keeping guests engaged as they make the necessary repairs to return to service. Here are a few of the ways restaurants are drawing in diners still reeling from the aftermath of a major storm.
Promoting the bare necessities
After Hurricane Irma ripped through much of the hot and humid Southeast area of the U.S., nearly 2 million residents in total across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas still were without power as of Friday, Sept. 15. Restaurants that can are using the resource as a selling point, advertising a place to charge cellphones, use Wi-Fi or simply cool down. Ocean Sun Brewing in Orlando, Fla., advertised a return to regular business hours with the promise of “full power” on its Facebook page. The taproom also highlighted its air conditioning, Wi-Fi, dog friendliness (for those with overheated pups) and the fact that it was accepting many forms of payment (some businesses have been cash only since Hurricane Irma). Austin's Coffee in Winter Park, Fla., also promised a strong Wi-Fi connection, one that has kept its business packed with patrons (at least according to a photo the shop posted on social media).
As Florida restaurants announced closures while Hurricane Irma approached, some operators chose to keep customers engaged although their doors were shut. Stubborn Mule in Orlando hosted a contest through its social media feeds, promising prizes for the best photo or video of fans enjoying a Moscow mule as they rode out the storm. Boardwalk Pizza in Winter Park, Fla., has struggled to stay open post-Irma due to a lack of power, at times only able to offer a limited takeout menu that is cash only. In the meantime, the restaurant is offering diners a chance to win four large one-topping pizzas. To enter, fans must either share Boardwalk Pizza’s post, like the Facebook page or review Boardwalk Pizza on Facebook, Yelp or Google, giving the restaurant extra promotional reach in addition to engagement.
Buying a round for customers
Liam Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant and Irish Pub in Lake Mary, Fla., posted a video of staff welcoming locals after Irma passed through, promoting that the pub was open and buying shots for customers who stopped in that day. The Knight's Pub in Orlando, a bar geared toward University of Central Florida students, pointed out on its Facebook page that although some students were without power and classes were canceled, the bar was open; it advertised free drinks for a period of time to celebrate making it through the storm.
Adjusting operating hours to serve more
Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen was one Houston restaurant that was able to reopen quickly after Hurricane Harvey hit the city hard. The restaurant usually closes during the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but owner Ziggy Gruber announced that it would stay open this year, a first in the deli’s 17-year history. Gruber cited the number of residents with no kitchens to cook in and no homes to gather in to celebrate the new year as the reason he chose to remain open. The restaurant will serve from a three-course, multichoice menu with two seatings for Rosh Hashana, and for Yom Kippur, it will offer an a la carte menu that caters to the holiday. Part of all proceeds will also go toward a flood relief program the restaurant started to aid the local Jewish community.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.