“I’m just trying to stay ahead of the game,” Pat Beloskur says of her purchase Monday afternoon at Locale Italian Kitchen. “I want to make sure there’s something in (the house) at all times, so I don’t have to go begging and borrowing, looking for stuff.”
She and her husband Leonard were not there for the restaurant’s acclaimed Italian cuisine. They were picking up a large package of ground beef and a few dozen eggs through a new ad hoc grocery service the restaurant is providing to help customers stock their kitchens with meats, cheeses and fresh-baked bread.
Chef Nicole Brisson was inspired by customers who kept asking if she had access to items they couldn’t find in their local supermarkets, at the same time she was trying to transition her restaurant to curbside pickup.
“The curbside thing didn’t really work,” she says of the early efforts. “But people just really wanted meat. So we started selling meat orders in advance.”
Ironically, as panicked customers have been clearing the shelves of many neighborhood stores, the people who supply restaurants have been sitting on huge stockpiles of food. And many restaurants, struggling to stay afloat with only pickup and delivery service, are supplementing their business by serving as a neighborhood grocer.
Marc Marrone, who is preparing to offer two weekly grocery pickups from the parking lot of his Buffalo Drive restaurant Graffiti Bao, hopes it will help solve a big problem with social distancing recommendations.
“I’m tired of seeing people forced to gather in huge, close groups at stores to get groceries, or to find out they can’t even get what they need.”
Sonia El-Nawal, who has been gradually converting her Desert Shores restaurant Rooster Boy Café away from single-meal takeout options and toward bulk cooked foods and groceries for about a week, is also seeking to create an alternative to the current supermarket reality.
“After I went to the grocery store last Monday, I was like, there’s no way I want to go through that experience again (with) the anxiety of watching people hoarding ingredients,” she said.
Antonio Nunez, who launched a pop-up grocer at his Henderson restaurant The Stove last week, says people act differently when they’re shopping in a small neighborhood spot.
“I have people come in every day and ask (things like) ‘How much can I get of this?’ And I tell them ‘You’re limited to two dozen eggs per household.’ And they say ‘Well, I only need a dozen; I want to make sure everybody else has some.’ ”
The list of restaurants adding basic kitchen supplies to the menu is growing daily. On Monday, Elizabeth Blau’s Honey Salt and the Sambalate in Boca Park began selling groceries to takeout customers. And the Lazy Dog chain is now offering “home essentials” packs of boneless chicken, eggs, whole milk, bread, butter, rice, vegetables and toilet paper to customers who order by phone or online.
“We have a huge supply chain,” says Michelle Patterson, who manages the Lazy Dog in Town Square. “So we’re just going to be ordering heavy and making sure we can fulfill everybody’s orders.”
It’s worth noting that nearly all of these grocery programs are works in progress, with hours of operation and available items subject to change. The best way to find out what someone is offering is to check their websites and social media feeds, or just call.