Botanica in Silver Lake and Jun Won in Koreatown are ramping up off-premises dining options, including takeout and delivery, as more and more Angelenos heed the CDC’s advice to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the official recommendation was originally directed at vulnerable populations. Connie and Ted’s in West Hollywood, where delivery and takeout are ingrained in the business model, has experienced an increase of 20 percent in off-premises dining sales this month according to general manager Matthew De Marte.
At Botanica, an all-day bastion for healthful dining, owners Emily Fiffer and Heather Sperling are preparing for a potential citywide lockdown by introducing delivery of its evening menu through Caviar; the restaurant’s daytime menu has been available through the third-party delivery service since day one. “We know that our food quality will suffer a bit in the delivery process, but we decided that providing people with a lovely and delicious dinner in a crazy time is more important,” says Fiffer. Botanica’s takeout business barely reached 5 percent of total sales prior to the coronavirus, but Fiffer expects the number to grow in the coming days.
“From a business standpoint, we’re very aware of running a tight ship, from staff to ordering,” explains Fiffer. “We have 50 employees who depend on us for their livelihoods, not to mention dozens of purveyors. We’re thinking about how to get as creative as possible — giving staff special projects to work on, for example, if we need to cut one of their shifts.”
In nearby Koreatown, Jun Won, a neighborhood institution serving homey Korean cooking, is considering converting to a takeout-only operation. “If we get sick, then we can’t run the restaurant anymore, so why not do all to-go?” says Jeff Jun, the restaurant’s co-owner. Jun Won is also exploring delivery as a service in case the city shuts down restaurant operations completely.
The Rustic Canyon Family of restaurants, which includes Huckleberry, Milo and Olive, and Cassia in Santa Monica, is optimizing existing takeout and third-party delivery services to set diners’ minds at ease. It has been sealing bags and containers with stickers for nearly a year already, making the adjustments easier. “Our last couple of weeks have been pretty strong, but this week we’ve seen a bit of a dip with dine-in and takeout,” shares a representative from the group. “We know other cities have dipped significantly in restaurant sales, so we’re preparing for a sizable drop.”
Keeping staff and diners safe, while maintaining sales, is the order of the day for local restaurants. In the restaurant industry, where fewer diners and softer sales are potentially detrimental due to slim margins, meaningful pivots — like offering more extensive off-premises options — may alleviate financial pressures in the short run.
This story has been updated to reflect that Rustic Canyon began sealing delivery orders months prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak.