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A social distancing cocktail party, and more innovative ideas of the week

As the ban on dining in continues, restaurants continue to come up with creative ways to generate business.
Photo courtesy of Commander's palace

The coronavirus has closed restaurants and bars and put the kibosh on socializing around dinner or drinks. But that hasn’t kept operators from constantly coming up with new ideas to generate business. Takeout and delivery are just the beginning. Check out these recent brainstorms.

A socially distanced cocktail party

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans hosted a “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” cocktail party—a guided wine-and-cheese tasting led by the restaurant’s wine director, Dan Davis, on Zoom. Ahead of the event, guests purchased a ticket for $99, which covered a tasting for two. Commander’s Palace then made a contactless delivery of three bottles of French wine, two 8-ounce portions of artisanal cheese and assorted crackers. On the night of the party, participants were encouraged to wear a beret to go along with the French theme. Then, Davis opened all three wines, provided tasting notes and suggested wine-cheese pairings. Next week’s theme: Italian.

Driving dining, flash-mob style

In North Palm Beach County, Fla., the community banded together to support local restaurants by forming The Socially Distanced Supper Club. Each day, the group posts one featured menu on a dedicated Facebook page, inviting customers to call or email their order to that restaurant the day before. “The goal is to ‘flash mob’ these restaurants on any given night so they have time to staff and inventory in advance,” states the description on the Facebook page. The idea is driving traffic to participating restaurants—to the tune of 200 or more orders a day at some—and operators can prepare in advance so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Making dollars from dough

Baker Miller

Chicago bakery Baker Miller is reaching out to parents of cooped-up toddlers with tubs of play dough. The colorful doughs are made with organic flour and scented with natural spices, herbs and flowers. The owners originally crafted the dough as a way to keep their own toddler occupied. The price is $10 for a set of four. Baker Miller also has take-and-bake cinnamon rolls for sale for home bakers.

Pay-what-you-can family meals

Family meals to go are building takeout and delivery business for many restaurants these days, but Dusek’s Board & Beer in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood is tying a relief effort into the idea. Every day from 12-8 p.m., the restaurant posts a different, chef-driven carryout meal on Instagram. The selection includes items such as lasagna and garlic bread, fried chicken sandwiches and patty melts—foods that provide comfort to customers and industry employees during these times. Orders can be placed by phone and are offered with a suggested price per person, but the team simply asks that purchasers pay what they are able. 

Throwback Thursdays

Cowboy Chicken Taco

Throughout April, Cowboy Chicken is posting a weekly recipe and photo of a popular item that is no longer on the chain’s menu. The fan favorites include Campfire Veggies and Cowboy Tacos. Home cooks sheltering in place can make each of the dishes in less than an hour with pantry staples.

I challenge you to a drink

To help provide some economic support to out-of-work Ohio bartenders, a local spirits company is staging a monthlong competition online. Buckeye Vodka is asking bartenders to submit mixology videos showcasing their favorite cocktails. Five cash prizes will be awarded to the winners. Consumers can also post “amateur” mixology videos with the chance to win three gift baskets. And to promote interaction, fans who comment on the bartenders’ clips can raise additional cash for the prize pool—a dollar for each engagement, up to $3,000.

Busy kids are happy kids

Golden Chick is offering a new “Un-Coop Yourself” activity sheet every other week with each takeout order. The sheets feature a coloring page and creative ideas for kids to do on their own or with the whole family. And customers can bring back the completed sheets to receive a discount on their next Golden Chick meal to go.

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