Navigating COVID-19 in the Food Industry

Shared kitchens and food businesses are facing uncertainty. Between restaurant closures, supply chain disruptions, and event cancelations, it’s likely that you’ve had to adjust your standard operation. During a time of significant disruption, opportunities can arise as quickly as they disappear. For example meal prep and food delivery has never seen so much growth as families look for ways to feed themselves during lockdowns and quarantines. Your shared kitchen or food business may be in a position to help fill this need.

As a convener of the industry, we want to help in any way that we can. That means communicating resources, spreading hope, and facilitating the sharing of innovative ideas when they emerge. Below is our collection of ideas and resources to help your business sustain and succeed in the midst of COVID-19. 

Ideas for shared kitchens and your clients

Crowdsourced win-win ideas from The NICK (Network for Incubator and Commissary Kitchens):

Meal Prep, Pickup, and Delivery

  • Can you help your food business clients transition their business to meal prep, takeout, and/or delivery? Here is a post to guide your through! 
  • Are there others in the community trained and equipped to prep and deliver meals out of your kitchen, such as laid-off restaurant staff? Do they know about your kitchen?

  • Can you offer up your kitchen to other community members, such as farmers and market vendors, and turn your space into a temporary corner store or curbside pickup?
  • If your kitchen sells grocery products, can you enlist clients to deliver these products? 
  • Can you put together a CSA-style pickup at your kitchen with products from your clients, other local producers, and famers that no longer have access to their customer bases? Consider surveying your community to see if there is interest and to market the opportunity.
  • Frontline Foods supports healthcare workers with healthy meals from local kitchens
  • Can food trucks, mobile vendors, and meal prep delivery clients target large neighborhoods who are tired of cooking from home, through Nextdoor or another avenue?
  • In response to the online demand for food by consumers, West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and New Growth MO pulled together an online webinar featuring 7 farmers and 8 online platforms.

Online Options

  • This post on cloud kitchens helps describe the model and details how you might be able to optimize your kitchen for delivery. Here is more on how to start your own delivery-only virtual restaurant.
  • What online groups have emerged in your community? Have you joined and shared about your business struggles and opportunities? 
  • Do you have clients with the ability to host online cooking classes or demonstrations?

  • Is your listing on The Kitchen Door up-to-date so displaced food workers can easily find you and contact you?
  • For curbside pickup at your kitchen, can you create online ordering, so you can leave a bag or box in a designated area at a certain time to avoid person-to-person contact?
  • Can you offer ServSafe classes online through Zoom? Check out Zoom’s training resources if you’re new to the platform.
  • Are there online farmers markets popping up in your local area, where your clients can sell their products? Keep checking! Plans may still be in the works. We’ve heard a lot of successes here.
  • Could your kitchen become an aggregation hub for online farmers market products?
  • Can your clients team up to provide online ordering and bi-weekly home delivery of packaged or heat-and-serve items?

Partnerships and Funding

  • Is there government or private funding that your kitchen can take advantage of to get meals into people’s hands? 
  • Who might you partner with (local agencies, local government, volunteer drivers) to get meals and products to those in need, such as front-line healthcare workers and elderly?
  • Have you registered your kitchen with FEMA or SBA disaster loans, for financial support? 
  • Does your local health department, county, and/or sheriff’s department know your kitchen can be a resource?
  • Is there a local Meals on Wheels, Food Bank, or other nonprofit in your area that could use your kitchen’s or clients’ services?
  • Is there local grant money you can access to pay your chefs to prepare meals that can be delivered at no cost to identified neighborhoods? Consider taking a small administrative fee for running the program.
  • Can you contract with hospital accounts for FoodService Partnerships collectives?
  • Can food trucks or mobile vendors post up at hospitals?

  • Can your clients pivot to launch emergency meal production, appealing to foundations and donors?
  • Who is a food aggregator, hub, or leader in your community? What about in a neighboring community? Reach out to them to see what they’ve put together. They may have funding, online sales portals, and/or access to stores or organizations.

Clients at Your Kitchen

  • Are there alternative immune-boosting or sanitation products your clients have the ability to make, such as elderberry syrup, cleaning supplies, or hand sanitizer?
  • To ensure social distancing, can you reserve no more than one client at a time in your kitchen?
  • Have you communicated your heightened sanitation practices to your clients?
  • Can you adapt Logan Square Kitchen’s Standards of Practice to screen all persons entering your facility?
  • Is your listing on The Kitchen Door up-to-date so displaced food workers can easily find and contact you?
  • Have your clients reached out to their regular customers asking for their support at this time? 
  • Can you put your clients on a reduced rate to keep their contracts active, rather than cancel them altogether, so they can jump right back in when they start producing again? 
  • For clients still producing, can you put them on payment plans or reduce their rates, to make up for their reduced sales?
  • Can your wholesale clients offer to sell to local grocery stores or other open businesses?

Resources for food businesses

  • For restaurants looking to get online, access delivery or pick-up, or sell gift cards:
    • Rally for Restaurants – Sign up to sell restaurant gift cards directly.
    • Toast – Provide delivery and takeout options during COVID-19 with the Toast Digital Ordering Suite. 3 months free digital ordering.
    • Eat.news – ideas for restaurants and food businesses, such as how to turn your restaurant into a corner store and curbside pickup examples
    • Rethink Food NYC – Restaurant Response Program to help restaurants turn their operation into a food distribution center, and temporary Emergency Food Response Hiring for other culinary members in NYC.
    • Takeout and Delivery Best Practices – How to set up and start your delivery and takeout business on the right foot…and fast.
    • HUNGRY connects hungry families and companies to top chefs in the area to provide chef-made meals, safely delivered
    • MarketMaker – For producers, buyers, and consumers – Connecting markets and quality food sources from farm and fishery to fork
  • Take advantage of existing delivery services in your area:
    • DoorDash – free delivery, zero commission fees for 30 days, and marketing support
    • UberEats – free delivery, and waived signup fees with fast tracked onboarding for restaurants new to the app
    • GrubHub – zero commission fees and community relief fund (available in major cities)
    • PostMates – zero commission fees and community relief fund (available in San Francisco, plus pilot programs for those interested in other cities)
    • A local delivery service in your area

  • Platforms to help with transitioning your operation model or accessing new customer bases:
    • Galley – productivity platform for the food industry.
    • Ordermark – dashboard and printer to manage all your delivery orders from multiple service provider.
    • EZCater – online marketplace for catered meal delivery.
    • Nextbite – become a fulfillment partner to generate more revenue for your restaurant/kitchen with turnkey delivery-only concepts.
    • Hungry – platform for local chefs to connect with family meals for delivery.
    • The Food Corridor – shared-kitchen management software to help you efficiently run your kitchen, even remotely.
    • The Kitchen Door – attract new clients by creating a free listing for your kitchen.
    • What’s Good – Farmers market and CPG product delivery platform.
    • Farmer’s Guide to Direct Sales Software Platforms
  • Other food industry resources – such as impact analyses, financial support, brand advice, webinars, food safety, and more

Navigating the crisis together

Please share more about your situation and creative ideas, so we can spread the word and help your kitchen and clients’ businesses continue to succeed in the midst of COVID-19.

We will continue to update this post with the latest ideas and resources. 

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