Friday, April 24, 2020

Checking In at Manny's Deli During Coronavirus

The Tribune has a easy, quick read on South Loop icon Manny's Deli and how they've had to quickly evolve some of their service during Covid.  It's probably not super unique as almost all restaurants have had to get creative in the current environment, but just goes to show a real story of evolution:
But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the closing of all restaurant dining rooms, these days there’s no hum, clang of utensils, or conversation sounding off the walls at Manny’s. “Obviously, it’s pretty quiet,” says fourth-generation co-owner Dan Raskin in a phone interview. “We are still open for customers, and have curbside and delivery options, but business is down like 70 percent.”
Raskin says that some of his biggest losses came from canceled events. “Corporate events, wedding rehearsals, conventions — all of those orders were canceled,” says Raskin. “They want their deposits back and they can’t reschedule. They are upset about cancelling, and I feel bad for them.”
Which doesn’t mean Raskin isn’t trying. “I have been personally doing everything possible to get more business,” says Raskin. “I’m not a give up kind of person. I’m going to get scrappy and do what I can.”
When the dining room first closed, he found himself working every day for three weeks straight. “I was tired, but I felt worse for my wife,” says Raskin. “We have three kids at home, and I’m trying to work. But we can’t ask for help, because we don’t want anyone to come over.”
Eventually, he noticed that a lot of people in the suburbs who would normally commute to the Loop for work wanted to place orders. This explains how Raskin found himself with a car full of orders from Manny’s ready to personally deliver them all. “I told people to either call or email me,” says Raskin. To his surprise, on the first day he got 80 orders, which initially sounded great. Then he realized he’d have to drop them off at 80 different houses.
“I called my dad and asked for help, so he took half,” admits Raskin. But this still meant that Raskin had to deliver 40 orders in four hours. “I don’t even know what I was thinking,” says Raskin. “It was working out until it got dark and then I couldn’t see the addresses.” He didn’t even have a minimum price for an order, so at one stop he delivered a single bowl of matzo ball soup.
Obviously, that wasn’t sustainable, so he called a friend from EJ’s Place in Skokie, Gabriella Lenzi Littleton, to see if she had any suggestions. She recommended using Tock, Nick Kokonas’s online ordering system. “It’s so easy to set up,” says Raskin. Now, instead of making individual deliveries, he picks a parking lot in a different suburb each day, and customers meet him there. “They stay in their cars, and I set the food in their trunks for contactless pickup,” says Raskin.
Though he’s working long hours (some days he’s working 14 hours) and had to completely retool his business, he considers himself lucky. “I’m fortunate that we have a legacy brand, and that I can deliver to the suburbs,” says Raskin. “If customers don’t know who you are, it’s hard for restaurant owners to do anything right now.”

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