Restaurants sell specialty groceries, meal kits to survive pandemic

The normally sold-out dining room at Williamsburg's Misi has been empty since March. Then last month, the kitchen came to life once again—not for traditional take out or even outdoor dining but because of the signature pasta kits and curated grocery bags that chef and owner Missy Robbins decided to start offering.

"We're giving sort of 'What's Missy cooking this week?' and tips for people," Robbins said. "And they're really getting into it."

Offering specialty groceries was something Robbins always had her eye on doing. But the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown was a chance to rush it to reality and make up a bit of lost income in the process.

"The most important part is getting people back to work and being able to provide positions for people," she said. "And the revenue will slowly come."

The owners of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Chinatown's oldest restaurant, found they could recoup some lost business by selling their famous dumplings frozen to be cooked at home. Other restaurants, including Hill Country Barbeque in the Flatiron District, have started to sell meal kits through Baldor Foods.

"Flexibility has really made an impact on a lot of restaurants," Bruce Reinstein, a restaurant consultant, told FOX 5 NY. "They figured out ways of doing things that they never thought they could do before."

Reinstein, a partner at Kinetic12, said that restaurants across the country are getting creative to avoid having to close.

"You can't replace indoor dining," he said. "What you have to do is build up enough of a percentage of your revenue to be able to survive."

For many chefs, it is still hard to plan for anything but survival.

"This is working right now and it's bringing our food into people's home with a certain level of hospitality," Robbins said.

The future of indoor and outdoor dining aside, Robbins said she plans to continue offering these meal kits and groceries to go as part of her business plan moving forward.


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