New York City’s decision to shutter indoor dining last month as COVID-19 surged was a stark wake-up call for restaurant entrepreneurs like French chef Daniel Boulud, who was forced to rethink how he could keep engaging customers — and keep paying his staff.
The still-raging pandemic “has been teaching us a lot and for many of my colleagues as well on how to rebound and find opportunity and ideas to continue to do what we love the most and continue to engage with that customer, to bring the service we are known for, but in a different way,” Boulud told Yahoo Finance Live in an interview this week.
The celebrated cook, known for his Michelin-rated restaurant Daniel in New York City, quickly had to create ways to bring the experience outdoors, to what he calls “a sidewalk cafe.”
Other restaurants have made similar moves in an effort to stay afloat as coronavirus infections skyrocket across the country. Boulud, however, affectionately referred to his creations as “bungalows.”
The tiny, individual huts outside of his restaurant “have a privacy of a bungalow... they're heated, they are warm, they're safe... they really work out and it helped me save jobs,” he added. The chef also owns other restaurants in New York City, but only Bar Boulud and Daniel are currently open.
“Bar Boulud, we have a big terrace there, and we built what we call a chalet outside there. So it's very comfortable, very warm,” he explained.
‘Rethink everything,’ starting with virtual cooking classes
Boulud also owns restaurants in Miami, Montreal, Palm Beach, Toronto, Singapore, Washington, D.C. and Dubai. He calls the bungalows and chalet “very, very important.”
Boulud explained: “We want to save the business, because it's going to be saving the team and saving the job. And not every restaurant reopened. But we are looking forward to reopening them all, for sure.”
The master chef also said the gig economy is coming in handy, offering consumers various carry out options.
“The takeout business is huge. Locally in New York, we're using a different platform, Grubhub (GRUB) and Caviar for private delivery of directly from the restaurant, Bar Boulud and Daniel,” Boulud said.
“But also, nationally, we're using Goldbelly. We are making a lot of prepared dish or sweets and dessert and that has been fantastic,” he added.
In the meantime, the restauranteur is also looking to strike up new business with virtual cooking classes and online delivery.
“We have always done cooking class...We don't usually do it in the restaurants. But with this pandemic...it gave us the opportunity to rethink everything,” Boulud added.
The virtual cooking class series led by the expert chef are running between January 14th to February 4th, but could extend beyond that based on the demand.
Each class runs for 60-75 minutes, teaching attendees how to cook up his favorite french classics like Steak Tartare and Salade Lyonnaise — with some time for a few questions at the end. Boulud said that during the outbreak, he did lots of private classes for various corporations and partners, in an effort to raise money for a charity.
The classes cost $60 for general admission, which includes a shopping list, prep notes, the recipe, suggested wine pairings and the access to the Zoom, $175 for premium admission and $215 for VIP Admission. The VIP option includes the ingredients for two, a hand-picked wine pairing from a Chef Boulud’s Sommelier and a special sweet treat from the Pastry team.
A portion of all sales will be donated to Citymeals-on-Wheels.
Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma.