You’re a small business owner and you’re wondering how you can survive the COVID-19 pandemic without losing all your employees or shutting your doors. One business owner, Victor Grillo, CEO of Cricket Café & Catering, a high-end Boston catering firm, may just have found the recipe.
Cricket serves up to 4,000 catered meals a day to firms like Google, Monster, and many of the top financial firms in Downtown Boston. With catering business suddenly disappearing, Grillo knew he had to come up with a Plan B. His decision, which he and his partner, Chef Drew Blankenberg made in 24 hours: Shift to home delivery of family comfort food items, slash the prices, and radically upgrade the virus-fighting capabilities in his kitchen.
“We typically charge $20 or so for a catered meal downtown,” Grillo says. “Now, we are offering free delivery and meals at $7 per person. We’re trying to keep our doors open while at the same time providing an important service to the community. “Getting out and shopping isn’t always easy, especially when parents have young children at home. So we’re creating a menu of things families love—chicken pot pie, burgers, lasagna, those kinds of things. This way, families can eat well and affordably while they wait out this unusual period.”
Taking Extra Precautions
As for his kitchens, Grillo put in UV lights which kills bacteria and viruses and filled the kitchen with ozone using an ozone generator which sanitizes equipment. He also required all chefs to wear gloves and respirator masks, upped the cleaning regimen considerably, and takes the temperature of each of his staff members several times daily to send anyone home with a temperature above 99.6 degrees.
“We haven’t had to send anybody home for illness so far,” he says, “and we haven’t had to layoff anyone else, either. Our margins have shrunk, of course, when you go from twenty bucks a meal down to seven. But this way we are keeping the doors open, keeping people employed, and providing a public service as well.”
Not Business As Usual
Grillo says that if the home delivery business remains as successful as it has been in its first few weeks, he will keep it on as a separate line of business.
“We’ll probably raise the prices a little bit, but if this works, why not? The goal wasn’t to find a new way to make money. The goal was to keep our people employed and do something for the community while the virus situation rages on.
“Small business owners recognize that, for this brief period, it isn’t business as usual. But that doesn’t mean you have to shut your whole business down and put all your people out of work. “It’s a relief for our team members that they’re keeping their jobs, and at the same time, we’re getting a lot of compliments on our chicken pot pie.”