A man wearing a face mask stands in a restaurant and holds a serving platter. In the background is a well-stocked bar.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many restaurants to create new ways of bringing food to their customers. — Getty Images/hobo_018

While many industries felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, restaurant owners have been especially affected by lockdown orders. Some have temporarily shifted their services to takeout-only, while others have had to shut down altogether and shift their offerings.

Though these uncertain times have posed a challenge to restaurant owners, they’ve also sparked some incredible innovation. Here are five eateries that have successfully pivoted during the COVID-19 outbreak, helping them to survive during and beyond the pandemic.

[Read more: Tech to Tackle a Pandemic: How Pandemic-Led Innovations Are Changing the Way Businesses Do Business]

The Cookie Cups

When Minnesota-based bakery The Cookie Cups was forced to shut its doors, owner Nicole Pomije had to quickly pivot her offerings. Although the bakery shifted to delivery via Grubhub and Doordash, Pomije needed more income to recover from the loss of in-person birthday parties and cooking classes.

That’s when she and her team came up with a plan: creating cooking kits that could be shipped nationwide, bringing the Cookie Cups class experience into people’s homes. Pomije’s team developed a Unicorn Cookie Cup Baking Kit and a Pizza Making Kit, geared toward families with small children. With its brick-and-mortar stores open only for delivery and takeout, The Cookie Cups worked to develop recipes and source products that could be shipped across the country. By pivoting to a meal-kit delivery service model, The Cookie Cups has expanded into a market that is far larger than its local geographic footprint.


When the governor of Illinois initially issued stay-at-home orders, Chicago restaurant Frontier needed to pivot quickly, as it had previously only offered in-person dining. To survive the shutdown, executive chef and partner Brian Jupiter developed a takeout menu for the first time in the restaurant’s ten-year history and, more importantly, started creating meal kits for families to cook at home.

Pivoting to meal kits began out of desperation to keep the restaurant alive. However, within a short time, the kits became a significant portion of Frontier’s revenue—about 70% of its weekly sales. Eventually, the restaurant also started offering live virtual cooking classes to supplement the meal kits.

Although restrictions have eased and Frontier is now offering limited in-person dining, the whole-animal restaurant continues to offer meal kits as well as a to-go menu.

[Read more: How to Maximize Your Yelp Listing to Promote Your Business]

“Clyde Common, the 100-seat restaurant, it’s not going to come back in that same format.”

Nate Tilden, owner of Portland restaurant Clyde Common

Clyde Common

In light of stay-at-home orders and potential reopening restrictions, Portland restaurant Clyde Common transformed its operations drastically—and permanently. According to owner Nate Tilden, “Clyde Common, the 100-seat restaurant, it’s not going to come back in that same format.”

Currently, Tilden is setting aside half of the dining room as a casual market, where customers can purchase dry goods and sandwiches for takeout or delivery. The other half of the dining room has been transformed into a tavern, where guests can enjoy outdoor dining as well as wine, beer and craft cocktails.

Founding Farmers

Like many restaurants around the country, Founding Farmers, a small farm-to-table restaurant chain established by the North Dakota Farmers Union, had to make the difficult decision to lay off employees due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Dan Simons, co-owner of the Farmers Restaurant Group, decided to pivot the restaurant as a grocery delivery service to stay in business and hire back many employees to weather the storm.

Today, Founding Farmers offers groceries, baked goods, deli items and household goods on top of the restaurant’s takeout and delivery services. Customers can choose to have their items delivered or made available for curbside pickup.

The Heyday

Before March, California-based food vendor The Heyday operated primarily at street fairs and special events. When COVID-19 shut down many of these events, proprietors Brad and Crystal Reihl needed to come up with a new plan to stay in business. In April, The Heyday set up shop at The Cole Hotel, a new property looking for an in-house restaurant.

The Heyday operates through an online ordering system, in which customers can place orders for curbside pickup at a designated time slot. The pivot has proven successful thus far, as seen by the restaurant’s expanded menu and increased hours. The Heyday has even expanded to poolside dining at The Cole Hotel, where guests can relax and enjoy their burgers.

[Read more: This Dining Rewards App Carved a Pandemic Niche by Becoming a Multisource Sales Platform for Restaurants]

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