San Francisco restaurant transforms into grocery store amid COVID-19 pandemic

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ByMelissa Pixcar KGO logo
Sunday, August 9, 2020
SF restaurateur reinvents business to fulfill community needs
During the coronavirus pandemic, many industries are finding new ways to keep their business afloat and a San Francisco restaurateur and chef is doing just that by making a bold move and transforming his restaurant into a neighborhood grocery store.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many industries to find creative ways to keep their business afloat.

A San Francisco restaurateur and chef is doing just that by taking a leap of faith to transform his restaurant into a neighborhood grocery store.

But it doesn't stop there, he is providing meal kits for virtual dinner parties and cooking Q&A's.

Anthony Strong opened Prairie, a live fire and charcoal grill restaurant in the Mission District in October of 2018. After a year in business, he wanted to create a family-style restaurant. Shortly after making costly adjustments and renovations, he noticed coronavirus was hitting close to home.

Like many restaurants, Prairie was experiencing a drop in reservations and dine-in customers.

"I was wondering what is going to happen if this hits the states," said Strong. "It got me thinking what would we do. We are not going to survive as a dine-in restaurant. Everyone that is going to stay open is going to take-out which will be hard to survive off of."

In the beginning of March, the panic started to set in and local supermarket shelves were left bare. That is when Strong came up with the idea to transform his restaurant into a no contact, online grocery store just days before the shelter-in-place order came into effect.

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"I was up all night trying to figure out if we could get pallets of flour, canned soup, basic pantry staples, things that we never buy as a restaurant," said Strong. "A big part of it was, what does the community need right now? We started asking our customers what can't you get and that's how the pandemic directed our course of action."

It was important to Strong to keep at least half of his employees on the payroll and keep working with as many vendors in his network. For the safety of his employees and his customers, Prairie offers contact free pick up or delivery.

"Things have totally changed for us, our managers are up in the window doing pick up orders and we have a server who is packing orders and stocking shelves," said Strong. "Everyone's role has shifted into an entirely different thing."

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Prairie played an integral part in its community by providing access to essential grocery items.

"I felt grateful to give someone flour when they couldn't find flour anywhere just so they could bake some of their anxieties away," said Strong. "Our role in the community can adapt and it should adapt to whatever people need."

In addition to groceries, Prairie is serving up meal kits, filled with fresh ingredients and recipe instructions.

"We have been doing meal kits from the start and we wanted to make things easy for people to finish at home," said Strong."We also have virtual cooking classes and lead a conversation about food. Anything that gets people excited about food."

Prairie's virtual cooking events include a Q & A "Real Talk with a Chef," a jam making session and a team building virtual dinner party.

"This has been a good learning experience, this is uncharted territory within uncharted territory that we are trying to figure out," said Strong. "In the meantime, we have been able to keep the lights on, keep people employed and serve our neighborhood. I am concerned about what the restaurant and cultural landscape is going to look like."

For more information, visit the Prairie website here.

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