Operating a restaurant throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone involved in the restaurant industry. Restaurateurs around the world were forced to rethink the way they run their business to keep their beloved businesses alive.
We talked with Ursula Waltemath, one of the owners of restaurant Brace in Copenhagen, to discuss how they successfully adopted the takeaway concept to keep themselves relevant during the Covid-19 outbreak bringing the Brace to experience home to their guests.
How did you navigate your restaurant during the Covid-19 outbreak?
We were working from home, managing administration, and marketing while Nicola and a few other chefs were working in the restaurant to keep the takeaway going.
What learnings did you get from operating your restaurant during COVID-19?
The importance of being creative and having the ability to always come up with new ideas. Also, how to stay relevant according to the situation itself and still have a plan B! We can see that personal growth is now more visible as well as business growth, meaning that we have to improvise and make quick strategic decisions within a short period of time. At most, every day brings something new in terms of regulations and decisions of the government. Instead of planning everything in detail and taking time before making final decisions, it is constantly very brisk.
Why did you decide to take on the takeaway initiative?
It was not enough for us only to be relevant online. We had to react and make decisions from day to day, and during this situation, taking on takeaway felt like a necessity to keep our staff and keep our beloved restaurant alive.
What concerns did you have before taking on the takeaway?
In the beginning, we were rejecting this idea completely. We thought that it would damage our brand and our concept and that it would simply not be the same experience as we were offering before. We were afraid of destroying our image and compromising the quality of food.
We decided to draw a fine line and make a distinct contrast between our restaurant concept and the takeaway concept. We decided to bring the experience we offer in the restaurant into our guests’ homes. Our team changed the menu a bit, and of course, the dishes are more casual than our usual style. We are preparing a tasty selection of comfort food from our organic ingredients that can be served in our guests’ living rooms. In this way, we still keep the relationships and leave a piece of Brace’s concept in takeaway orders. We believed that if we do it right, it can actually benefit us, and luckily, we were right!
How did your guests react to this change?
Fine dining is delicate, and we didn’t know how it was going to pop up, but people have been kind and accepting. Thanks to the trust and support of our guests, it has turned out very well, which we are really proud of.
What made your takeaway initiative become a success?
The flexibility of work. Also, we try to stay positive all the time even though it’s tough. But this is what makes people motivated and think clearly.
Can you tell us about how do four hands takeaway collaboration dinners work?
We managed to get some great recognition for our takeaway concept not only from our beloved guests, but also by receiving 5 stars in all three national newspapers and some great publications in with The New York Times and Gambero Rosso. All these recognitions gave us the determination to continue and we came up with the idea of the “Takeaway 4 Hands Edition” the 4-hand version of our normal takeaway. The intention was to invite chefs into our kitchen who, like us, were going through this difficult moment. The support between colleagues, if done in the right way, can be a great stimulus for everyone.
Do you think takeaway will become part of your concept in the future?
I feel like this strategy with the takeaway is temporary, and it will rely on people’s perspective - how they see the visiting of restaurants, hygiene, and safety. Moreover, it will also depend on how the whole situation evolves.
Could you give any advice for other restaurateurs on how to handle this challenging situation?
It is hard to say and predict because every restaurant has its own DNA. There is not a specific formula on how to manage this challenging situation. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. What I would recommend: Balance everything, look at things objectively, be humble, and creative!
Restaurant Brace is an excellent example of how to think differently and successfully adapt your restaurant in challenging times. The team took a brave decision to keep their business running by taking one a new unexplored takeaway initiative offering guests to pick up Italian comfort food to eat at home. The team even introduced a brand new concept ‘4-hands takeaway dinners’ inviting well-known chefs, such as Claus Meyer, to join Nicola Fannetti in his kitchen to create a unique takeaway experience for their guests. That is creativity! Having the confidence to make quick decisions and to stay positive and humble helped restaurant Brace to turn this situation into something positive, a mentality that without a doubt will be beneficial in the new era of hospitality.