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Dining in 2020: Restaurants Are Changing the Way They Do Business

Account Supervisor Ally Hodapp walks us through a few unique examples of how restaurants are pivoting dine-in and online experiences

Due to varying local and nationwide shutdowns, restaurants and dining experiences have been a hot topic of conversation since March. Restrictions set in place by local governing bodies have left restaurant owners trying to find their balance when it comes to operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. In New Orleans we’ve seen personal messages from chefs and owners posted to social media, expanding on their struggles and how they’ve pivoted to continue serving their community and guests. A few weeks ago, I listened in on a panel of three Eater editors from Seattle, New York and Dallas discussing the ethics of dining out to gain insight into how other cities are handling these changes, as well.

From what I’ve gathered, there is no “one-size-fits-all” on restaurant operations right now. Here are a few examples of how restaurants are pivoting during 2020:

Private Dining

Several New Orleans chefs, including Eric Cook (Gris Gris), Sue Zemanick (Zasu) and Todd Pulsinelli (The Chloe) are now offering private dining experiences. Moving to this model allows the chefs to open their doors with more control and without fear of losing more money than they take in a night. Hotel Chloe is taking it to another level, offering in-home dining where they plan everything from the multi-course meal to the décor and playlist.

Private dining can be pricey, but it is becoming more attainable for the diner as the model becomes a common experience and not just for special occasions.

Added Experiences

Restaurants like Jewel of the South, The Bower and Justine have added experiences to their offerings rather than continuing service as normal.

Jewel of the South offers a ticketed, prefix experience called “The Cocktail Hour” where mixologist Chris Hannah presents cocktails and snacks to small groups of people. When registering, guests can choose where to be seated in the restaurant based on their party size and needs. The ticketed event runs through September 20.

After The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience postponed the 2020 event, the organization partnered with local restaurants to offer a Summer Wine Dinner Series. NOWFE decided to add additional wine dinners after the July events sold out. The Bower and Justine, along with half a dozen other restaurants, are participating. The Justine dinner on Wednesday, September 2 will feature Old World-New World Challenge – Wines of Burgundy, California and Oregon. The Bower dinner on Wednesday, September 23 will feature K Vintners.

Street Dining

Cities like Chicago are making outdoor dining more accessible for restaurants as mayors give the green light to close commercial corridors to motor traffic for restaurants to use the street for additional social distancing. The initiative is to help increase revenue for restaurants. See 14 Chicago streets that are open for outdoor dining in this TimeOut Chicago article.

Strengthening Online Presence

It may seem obvious, but having a strong online presence is an important aspect of any business, especially for restaurants. With an increased demand for up-to-date information on menus, hours of operation and delivery options, many restaurants are taking a look at their website and make changes to help better accommodate customer needs. Everyone is overwhelmed by the pandemic and making it simple to access the information they need, whether that be to make a reservation or order takeout, can create a loyal customer base.


Ally Hodapp is an Account Supervisor at Bond Moroch.


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