Silver Linings Playbook
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 presented new challenges for the hospitality industry to maintain operations continuity and comply with regional safety guidelines. New social distancing practices forced businesses to discover new ways to serve the public, including hosting guests outside, offering products and services online, and developing individualized solutions to serve guests. While many will look back on the pandemic as a dark spot in our history, some silver linings emerged, some of which became creative innovations that we hope will live on once we all safely gather again.
Pop-Up Restaurants and Food Trucks
Napa Valley has always touted some of the region’s finest foods, but when the pandemic hit, some of the areas’ premier caterers and restaurants mobilized by launching virtual pop-up menus, restaurants and food trucks, allowing them to expand their reach during high volume order- ing times and offering convenient pick up or delivery options.
With local indoor theaters closed to the public, the Cameo Cinema and Team Morales Events in Napa came to the rescue. They created family- focused pop-up movie events in St. Helena, Calistoga, and downtown Napa. The event planners collabo- rated with local eateries and con- cessions to provide beverages and snacks for movie-goers to watch the show safely spaced within their vehicles on huge pop-up movie screens. The concept provided a fun and nostalgic respite for families and friends to gather and enjoy watching movies outside of the confines of home.
Carry-Out listings were the de facto link found on many local restaurant websites when take-out dining was the primary option to acquire some of Napa’s coveted dishes. Most restaurants offered home delivery or curbside pickup to expedite fresh meals to hungry patrons. Some restaurants created designated walk-up windows, some of which maintained their popularity even when indoor dining was also in play.
Cocktails to Go
During the months when the community was in the habit of sheltering in place, many restaurants relied on carry-out services to deliver their tasty menus and beverages at home. Besides offering great deals on local wines to go, some got creative and converted some of their signature cocktails to ‘to-go’ status. Whether sold by the drink or by the batch, the creative concoctions became a popular request, allowing customers to carry-out and recreate the restaurant/bar experience at home.
Virtual Hospitality Events
Napa Valley transported its reputation as a world-class wine & food destination by hosting virtual food and wine events to captive audiences at home. Wine enthusiasts, foodies, and home cooks tuned in to live, interactive online sessions hosted by Napa Valley’s renowned winemakers and chefs via virtual technology that enabled them to showcase their latest wines, suggested food pairings, and educational classes, expanding their reach (sales and visibility) to people and places they were not connecting with before.
This summer, some of Napa’s restaurants and wineries took to the streets with the installation of Parklets- built-out platforms that extend out from the sidewalk to the adjacent parking space’s width, allowing additional seating for patrons. Complete with umbrellas for shade, barriers for privacy, and potted foliage for decoration, they present a handy solution for dining outdoors and some European charm to Napa’s dining scene.