The mother of invention
With Chicagoans mostly confined to their houses in the coming weeks, restaurants are finding innovative ways to re-interpret to-go as they scramble to keep the doors open and lights on. For starters, assembling order-ahead family-size meals and meals kits of ingredients with accompanying recipes is one way to feed guests without putting them or restaurant staff at risk.
Brian Jupiter, executive chef of New Orleans-inspired Ina Mae Tavern, is hosting a live online cooking demo on Instagram of his Nashville hot chicken po’boy, and making all the ingredients available for pickup by consumers.
Dave and Megan Miller, owners of bakery-café Baker Miller on the city’s North Side, saw the writing on the wall last week amid shutdowns across Europe. So the couple preemptively moved all eight staff to full-time and overtime in order to devote all their energy to pivoting operations to delivery and carryout—staggering announcements on their social channels to keep from overwhelming patrons as things evolve at breakneck speed.
The Millers launched an online ordering platform that links to the company’s website; phased in all-paper packaging to accommodate to-go and for employee safety; shifted one employee to solely cleaning duty; added faster-baking white-bread loaves to meet higher demand; and—in a nod to Depression-era ingenuity—introduced bread delivery service, tapping a local transporter to oversee deliveries of up to three times a week. Customers can order online, and the owners hope to eventually add family-style meals to the program.
“Honestly, it sounds weird, but I’ve been looking at the Depression,” Dave Miller says. “What do we have that people need right now? We have bread. That’s where that creativity is coming from—an old-school route with new technology.”
Baker Miller did a quarter of its average business on Monday but bounced back to 40 percent on Tuesday—the first official day of the dine-in ban—thanks largely to the bread deliveries, which more than 50 customers have signed on for.