Restaurant Table

Chef Burke Talks About Restaurant Mentality

With Coronavirus Shutdowns, Restaurants Are Adapting Menus to Accommodate New Needs

Several New Jersey chefs discuss the process of shifting to a takeout and delivery business model as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

Chef David Burke of VentanasDrifthouse by David Burke and Orange Lawn

Table Hopping: What made you decide to stay open?
David Burke: We thought it was important to provide something for the community and keep as much of our personnel employed as we can. It’s very unfortunate we had to lay off people.

TH: What kind of meals made it onto the takeout menus?
DB: Right now the menus are in a little bit of a flux because we’re still learning what families really want. Some people want a steak… Some people just want cold cuts. So we’re trying to offer a little bit of both… At Drifthouse we’re actually doing a deal where if you buy $100 of takeout you get a $25 gift card. And Ventanas is 25% off your bill, for the first anniversary celebration. That’s going to last until we’re back in business.

TH: How is it working?
DB: Certainly curbside pickup is not a moneymaker for restaurants. It’s a little cash flow, it keeps some people employed, and it keeps your name out there. And it gives people something to eat… We’re certainly not in a position to fight like we did with Hurricane Sandy. Then, restaurants were open, producing income, able to donate more product. We’re in a less powerful position than we were.

TH: Have you had any issues procuring product?
DB: Just minor issues. We’re actually trying to do more grocery delivery, too. The lines at Shoprite, only 50 people allowed at a time, people are getting tired of that. We’re gonna go right online with it. The new menu’s gonna have paper towels, maybe toilet paper. We’ll be segueing into a grocery store and food pick-up.

TH: Is that another alternative to closing? Does that help delay, or avoid, temporary closure?
DB: We have to be flexible. We’re not in the takeout business per se. Right now, it’s like “What can we get you guys that’s gonna keep your family happy, coming back, more than once a week?” Closing is an option, but we hate to do that. We don’t like to be defeated. Chefs are like the piano players on the Titanic. We want to cook! We want to serve. That’s the restaurant mentality. It’s hard for us to see this happen. We’re usually the ones helping others in crisis. But you shouldn’t have to go out if you don’t want to. And we’re trying to get people to stay at home as much as possible. Jersey Strong, right?

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