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.
Frontline Foods is working with thousands of restaurants across the U.S., one of which is Tavern on Jane, a longtime neighborhood haunt in Greenwich Village of New York City. We recently spoke with owner Michael Stewart on how they’ve adapted to COVID-19 and how Frontline Foods is helping them bring employees back to work.
To learn more about Frontline Foods, and to donate, visit: https://www.frontlinefoods.org/
How did you get into business?
Owner Michael Stewart opened Tavern on Jane 25 years ago. He was inspired to open a restaurant that was a community gathering spot – as he puts it, “I built Tavern on Jane to be a neighborhood spot, a real life ‘Cheers’.”
What do you love about being a business owner?
Michael says, “My favorite part of running my own business is working with my employees and my customers. I have employees who have been with me since we opened. And I really enjoy the interactions with our customers. We have a tremendous amount of regulars who come in for dinner multiple times a week. In effect, we’re their kitchen.” Michael’s become such an integral part of his local neighborhood community, he’s regularly referred to as the “Mayor of Jane Street.”
How did you get involved with Frontline Foods?
Michael was already invested in doing his part to keeping essential hospital workers fed. His son is a nurse at NYU Langone Hospital, so Tavern on Jane has sent meal deliveries there, as well as to Mt. Sinai Hospital.
When his business temporarily shut, one of his regulars who runs the New Jersey chapter of Frontline Foods reached out to see if Tavern on Jane would be interested in participating in the program. They’re currently ramping up now to start providing meals.
How has working with Frontline Foods helped your business?
One of the benefits of working with Frontline Foods is that Michael will be able to bring more of his team members back in to work. Between the added business from supplying meals to Frontline Foods and receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, Michael was able to keep most of his employees on payroll through the shutdown in New York City.
While the added business is certainly very welcome for Tavern on Jane, what really motivated them to join the program was their longstanding investment in their community: “what we really want to do is be a part of any opportunity to help our neighbors and New York City in general. We have a long history of participating in charity events. We feel like this is a way to give back given current climate.”
How are you adapting your business to our new normal?
Tavern on Jane has been in business for 25 years, so this is not the first hardship the business has faced. They managed to remain open after 9/11, even though the restaurant is located less than a mile from Ground Zero. The only reason they had to shut temporarily after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was that they had no power. For Michael and Josh, the most important thing is taking of their customers and employees, even when larger challenges arise.
So, as it became clear to Michael and Josh that COVID-19 was going to significantly impact their business, they sat down to plot out how they could adapt Tavern on Jane to operate in the “new normal”.
In the past, Tavern on Jane hasn’t done much in the way of pickup or delivery. Their kitchen was so busy with in-restaurant orders, they never had the need to take on more orders. But with their restaurant location closed, they quickly made the switch to a takeout/delivery model only: “To be able to stay open and take care of our customers and our employees, we switched to delivery. We’ve also added family style meals, and have weekly specials – on Sundays, for example, we always serve Fried Chicken. We think it’s important to offer comfort food during this difficult time. While we’re not doing the same level of business as we’ve done in the past, we’re focused on further expanding our delivery and takeout options.”
What’s next for Tavern on Jane?
Michael and Josh have been working on how they can reopen safely when it’s time to do so: “Once we start thinking about reopening, we have to think about how we make our employees and customers feel more comfortable. Even after reopening, our seating will be limited so we’ll need to keep up another line of revenue. We plan to keep investing in our delivery and takeout services to make up that revenue. The last couple months have been a drastic change in cash flow – we’re looking forward to getting back up and running.”
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.