“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

One publication, from Scotland, ruminating on conditions for most businesses – calls it VUCA, “a world filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity,” and that even before the pandemic.

During this pandemic, as COVID-19 is spiking around the country, and when balmy summer evenings turn to chilly fall nights, those most likely to survive, are those with imagination.

We’ve seen businesses, particularly restaurants, close as restrictions have made it difficult to operate as governments try to find ways to mitigate, and even eliminate COVID-19. Some businesses were operating on the edge, and any disruptions were going to be catastrophic.

Predictions are a cold winter will find many more restaurants, small businesses, shutter. With some imagination, creativity, daring sometimes, and the will to change, many of these businesses can and will survive.

Already, we’ve seen some of that innovation in our area – outdoor dining, take out restaurant business, creative ways to assure social distancing. Chambers of Commerce and local governments have extended outdoor dining areas by closing off some parking, or devoting specific days to celebrate outdoor dining, complete with music and vendors. But as weather changes those events surrender to the weather.

 So, what are restaurants and small businesses doing to set them apart, and help them survive this pandemic? We looked, scoured many sources, and found many businesses that are turning these challenges into opportunities that well may last beyond COVID-19. Here are a few of the ideas we found:

  • Finding new customers. In Scotland, we found Dunn’s Food and Drink, coffee farmers that for nearly 150 years had sold directly to the hospital industry. With COVID they lost 90 percent of their business, but began selling to the public, developing apps, investing in new technology and infrastructure.
  • Cyclebar East Cobb in Marietta, Georgia brought their workout experience to their clients, renting out their stationary bikes to customers, staying connected through virtual classes hosted by trainers.
  • In Little Chute, Wisconsin, a company called Party and Print raised the community’s spirits by making 350 balloon decorations, colorful bouquets that stretched for five downtown blocks.
  • In the West of Scotland, a children’s shoe store, Susie, and Sam’s, went online and by phone, providing advice to parents to measure their children’s shoe sizes. They experienced only about a 3 percent return rate.
  • In several places, restaurants and hotels have set up transparent igloos so diners can eat outside while social distancing.
  • Six by Nico, a small chain in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland that offered theme tasting menus began providing at-home dining kit experiences.
  • Many restaurants, around the country and locally, have trimmed their menus and developed their takeout business.
  • Crisp & Green, described as a fast-casual chain in Minnesota, developed its Crisp@Home program, allowing patrons to choose 20 meals worth of a la carte ingredients, including salad mixes, grains, cold and hot ingredients, drinks, snacks, fruits and more. Ingredients are assembled at home.
  • Bakeries across the country are selling cookie quarantine decorating kits for children and adults. Kits include baked cookies, frosting and sprinkles.
  • Pizza restaurants are assembly kits, pizza boxes, with fresh dough, cheese, and containers of sauce for patrons to assemble and bake pizzas at home.
  • Brooklyn’s Pies-n-Thighs is offering fried chicken and sides family packs, while New York’s Spoon Table and Bar sells frozen family size entrees. Both to help customers reduce trips to the supermarket.
  • ARDYN of New York offers its “Doomsday Dinner Party,” an upscale five-course meal, with drink pairings and a playlist.
  • The executive chef at Chicago’s Ina Mae Tavern hosted a live online cooking demo Instagram, making all the ingredients available for pickup from the restaurant.
  • Several restaurants are using social media to host cooking demonstrations, doing an online Q&A.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
Lewis Carroll

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.