Like so many independent restaurants in 2020, Perlo’s Restaurant—a white tablecloth establishment in East Rochester, New York—went from doing virtually 99 percent of its business in house to only doing takeout overnight.
It was a pivot that owner-operators Brian diNardo and Donna Perlo describe as the most challenging they’ve endured in their 20 years running the business, but they say they got by with a little help from their friends. In this case, those friends were both their loyal customer base, as well as a product vendor that went above and beyond to ensure the pivot to off-premises was as pain-free as possible.
“First and foremost, when we rolled out a family meal takeout program, we were overwhelmed by the support we got from our customers,” Donna Perlo says. “We also could not have done the business that we did without our Barilla sales representative, Shelley Cunningham. She was vital to us throughout the whole process. Not only did she give us an incredible amount of moral support, but she also kept us in tune with what larger brands were doing to be successful.”
Having to close their dining room for three months and then reopen at just 25 percent capacity for much of the rest of 2020 was quite a shock. Yet Perlo’s sales only dipped 20 percent thanks to its pivot to takeout family meals, a move that was made with the guidance of Cunningham, who brought best practices and insights from the Barilla team. The revenue drop was real, but Perlo’s performed better than other independent restaurants. Turning out family meals of Perlo’s specials, like Chicken Parm and Chicken French, which uses Barilla’s pasta, helped the brand stay in the lives of its loyal customers, who were more than willing to pay $40 for family meals that feed six people.
“We sell so much pasta at Perlo’s, and that’s why people come here,” Brian diNardo says. “Being able to give them that food even if they had to eat it at home was really important to us and important to them.”
Now, with all capacity restrictions having been lifted in the middle of May 2021, Perlo’s is pivoting back to what it does best in serving indulgent Italian fare to its loyal following. The brand has a newfound appreciation for the vendors, like Barilla, that helped it become agile enough to handle whatever was coming next during the pandemic. And, as proud Italian-Americans, the duo has always strived to serve the best possible pasta dishes to its customers, and they say Barilla makes that possible. It’s both a durable pasta and one that creates operational efficiencies.
“First of all, Barilla pasta is bulletproof,” Brian diNardo says. “You can pre-cook your pasta, and, as the night goes on and people are ordering, and you drop it into the water to finish your dish. Most pastas fall apart when you’re holding them, but Barilla does not. It makes life that much easier to be able to count on the durability and quality of the product.”
For more on Barilla’s products and delivery and takeout expertise, visit www.pastadelivers.com.