At OnDeck, our mission has always been to support and empower small business owners. That’s why we are proud to spread the word about Frontline Foods, a non-profit fueling the fight against COVID-19 by providing food from local restaurants to frontline workers and impacted communities. The program helps restaurants keep their kitchens open and workers employed to prepare meals, while showing frontline workers that they appreciate and support them. One hundred percent of proceeds go directly to the restaurants participating.
Photo Credit: Susan Adler
Frontline Foods is working with thousands of restaurants across the U.S., one of which is Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen, a San Francisco-based restaurant and OnDeck customer. We recently spoke with owner Adriana López Vermut about how Frontline Foods is helping them while supporting healthcare workers and others in need.
To learn more about Frontline Foods, and to donate, visit www.frontlinefoods.org.
Tell us about your background and the origin of your business.
Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen is a Venezuelan restaurant located in the Mission District of San Francisco. According to owner Adriana, her Venezuelan heritage inspired her to get into the restaurant business: “My father is from Caracas, and we opened our first Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen location together back in 2008. At the time, we felt there was a lack of authentic Venezuelan food available in San Francisco, so we wanted to bring some of that to our community. However, given the shutdowns due to the coronavirus, we are now just offering takeout and delivery from our Mission District location.”
How did you get involved with Frontline Foods?
“We were actually connected to Frontline Foods through a meal drive for low income residents that we were running. Most of my workforce is hourly employees, who typically don’t have much a financial cushion to fall back on after an unexpected loss in income. When the California “shelter in place” order went into effect, we came up with the idea of launching a meal drive, where we would raise money to provide meals to shelters and other non-profits in need (and also keep our employees working).
Through our grassroots meal drive, we were connected to an early donor to Frontline Foods and signed up to participate.”
How has Frontline Foods helped your business?
“Prior to working with Frontline Foods, we were spreading ourselves pretty thin: we were raising donations, preparing takeout meals, and sourcing non-profit groups to deliver meals to. We started working with Frontline Foods at the perfect time, as we had exhausted our first round of donations. Now that we’re working with Frontline, we’re able to focus on our area of expertise: preparing and delivering meals.
Frontline Foods is a great organization – we are able to provide food to those who need it while continuing to keep our employees on payroll.
How are you thinking about the future of your business given COVID-19?
“Ever since we opened in 2008, we’ve always had to be creative in how we bring in different sources of revenue. We felt that we needed to think outside the traditional brick and mortar restaurant. Compared to other cuisines, Venezuelan food isn’t as well known. We started working large outdoor events – like festivals – as a way to raise awareness of Venezuelan food, market our business, and bring in cash.
We also jumped on delivery and takeout very early. By the end of 2019, catering was responsible for more than half of our revenue. Prior to coronavirus, we were already thinking about switching to a “ghost kitchen” model, where you have just a commercial kitchen churning out takeout meals. This can be more profitable than running a dining room in the center of a city – rents are lower, and you have more capacity. We were also considering offering meal kits, retail, or group orders. Coronavirus just accelerated these plans and ideas.
What do you love about being a business owner?
“I love that running your own business is a creative endeavor and involves a lot of problem solving. Not only do you have to come up with the business idea, but you also need to keep it open and running smoothly. This has never been more relevant – to keep your business open given all the COVID-19 related changes, you need to change and adapt or you’ll have to close. However, we feel like we’re uniquely prepared for this. We first opened during the 2008 financial crisis – we’ve always been put to the test.”
Visit www.frontlinefoods.org. to donate to the program so more restaurants can provide meals to those in need
OnDeck is here to support small businesses – check out our COVID-19 Resource Hub for more helpful information for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.