Colin Kerr is the owner of The Wildflower Café in Evergreen, Colorado, a local diner that sees high tourist volume in the summer and on the weekends, and a devout local following during most weekdays. Diners in-the-know are willing to wait through the crowd for comfort breakfasts, such as weekender Benedicts, custom-designed pancakes, or skillet scrambles with the famed Wild Potatoes.
When COVID-19 hit, The Wildflower Café took a proactive stance, adhering to federal and state closure recommendations even before the stay-at-home order.
“We’re part of a close-knit community, and it was most important to us to be good members of that community, keeping everyone safe,” Kerr said.
Kerr and his staff worked diligently with their marketing team to upgrade the website for easier online-ordering and to-go pick-up, while also moving merchandise, including gift cards, to an e-commerce platform.
“We were overwhelmed with the support our town gave us during that transition period,” Kerr said. Wildflower also created special lunch boxes for children suddenly out of their school lunches; offered bulk items for sale; and partnered with a local ranch to sell portions of beef.
As regulations around to-go ordering formed and the stay-at-home order was announced, The Wildflower Café opened a mock drive-thru, with great success.
“We were hoping to do $500 our first day,” Kerr said. “We did $1500!”
While it’s no substitute for usual day-to-day operations, Kerr saw the drive-thru setup as an important alternative during this unusual season.
Situated on a two-way main street, The Wildflower Cafe put up a new sign for drive-thru information, including adjusted hours.
“We had to scale back on our hours of operation to manage budget concerns and also to condense orders into a tighter funnel,” Kerr explained. He and the head chef organized the full-menu into manageable options that are easy to package for takeaway and to eliminate as much food waste as possible.
Kerr credits some of the drive-thru’s success to these trimmed hours and options. “It makes it easier for people to decide what they want and know when it will be available.”
A nod to the usual custom feel of the establishment, the chef creates a to-go special each week so customers can still try something new.
“Social media has been crucial in spreading the word and sharing what we’re doing,” says Kerr. “Having a weekly to-go menu special gives us fresh content to update our followers. And it also refreshes the limited options for some of our most loyal customers.”
This same customer base is a crucial part of Wildflower’s social media movement, and every day, the restaurant’s marketing team creates shareable posts and stories to spread the word.
With the loosening of liquor regulations, Kerr was able to start selling the cafés breakfast cocktails again, including to-go mimosas, Bloody Marys, and Bloody Maria’s. Partnering with the local Evergreen Brewery, Wildflower also sells canned beer to pair with their more savory lunch dishes.
“Working in community, with our customers and with other businesses in town is what is really making this work,” Kerr said.
How is your restaurant making adjustments for COVID-19? Contact a restaurant consultant for ideas!