La Scala Italian Restaurant in Lafayette, Indiana is working to reimagine their business model to serve their community during COVID-19.
In March La Scala halted its regular business and began modeling its operations on World Central Kitchen (WCK), a nonprofit organization that provides fresh meals to people affected by natural disasters and other crises. Under the WCK model, the restaurant started a Community Comfort Menu, which uses donations from the local community to provide meals to people in need. In one week, the program fed over 1,200 people.
“With Community Comfort, we could continue to employ staff while feeding as many folks as possible,” Kirsten Serrano, the owner of La Scala, tells Food Tank. “Providing a meal for an individual or family is something in itself of course, but I think there is a real significance in letting someone know you see them and care.”
But out of concern for the safety of their staff, La Scala temporarily closed, ending the Community Comfort Menu.
During these changes, La Scala was forced to furlough its employees. But Serrano still wanted to support staff however she could, and says that she helped some employees start their own garden business.
Then in May, La Scala reopened, adopting a community-supported agriculture (CSA) private meal subscription service, Good to Go.
“That transition was largely a mental one. We needed to find a way to safely feed our community through—not in spite of—a pandemic,” Serrano tells Food Tank.
Participants of Good to Go receive a variety of entrees, sides, and desserts that change biweekly. Subscribers also obtain bonus products and seasonal produce from Small Wonder Farm, a local farm that Serrano operates in addition to La Scala.
“A subscription model gives you something to stand on,” says Serrano, explaining that Good to Go is helping the restaurant stay in business. Additionally, this model prioritizes the safety of both staff and customers by providing no contact deliveries and equipping staff with masks and hand sanitizer.
Even as La Scala works to adapt to the changing situation, the future of the business remains uncertain. Since March, nearly 24,000 restaurants in the United States (U.S.) closed—more than half ending their operations permanently—due to COVID-19. The country’s restaurant industry could lose US$225 billion in 2020, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Despite the challenges generated from the pandemic, Serrano tells Food Tank that taking care of their staff and feeding the community is motivating La Scala to continue their operations. “We feed people. It’s just what we do…we won’t stop now.”
Photo courtesy of Unsplash, Joel Muniz