We recently caught back up with Yarden Elkaïm-Flatow, general manager of Cuisine by Claudette, a local Queens favorite for healthy and delicious food. Like many local businesses, the restaurant had seen a pretty big downturn in March and April. “We’ve tried to make the best out of the current situation,” said Yarden.
However, having pivoted operations earlier in the year to focus more on delivery and takeout, Cuisine by Claudette was ready to meet the increased demand of the summer months and since then, seen some recovery. The restaurant had also developed its own food ordering app, which helped it avoid the high transaction costs of major food delivery platforms. “We’re lucky,” said Yarden, who remains optimistic about the months ahead and proud to continue being a “local staple” in the Rockaways.
In May, 2020, OnDeck highlighted the stories of customers who have adapted to COVID-19 and how Frontline Foods, a national non-profit organization, helped local restaurants like Cuisine by Claudette survive and keep their employees working. Continue reading below for the full story.
Small businesses across the country are suffering due to the impact of COVID-19, and local restaurants are among the hardest hit. For 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 in partnership with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen that is fueling the fight against COVID-19.
Frontline Foods is a grassroots organization that takes action during crises to provide 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.
We recently spoke with the owner of Cuisine by Claudette, a restaurant operating in New York City and an OnDeck customer, on how they’ve adapted to COVID-19 and how Frontline Foods is helping them keep their employees working.
Tell us about your background and the origin of your business.
Cuisine by Claudette is an upscale deli and grocer with four different locations in Queens, NY. Claudette and her husband started the business in 2012, and brought their children into the business as well.
According to Claudette’s son Yarden, Claudette’s cooking classes kicked off the original idea: “She would host 3 classes of about 10 people a week and would do the whole shebang. An appetizer, a main, and a dessert. Everybody would bring wine and liquor and it was like a mid-week party for everybody. After a couple of years, her students started telling her to open a restaurant.
Once we opened Cuisine by Claudette, I started working there immediately (my brother joined a few years later). Today, we’re more of a fast-casual takeout and delivery restaurant. We’ve invested even more in takeout and delivery after restaurants were shut down during the pandemic.”
How did you get involved in Frontline Foods? What led you to join the program?
“We heard about Frontline Foods from two different contacts. First, a regular customer of ours happens to be involved in FLF, and she recommended we look into the program. Separately, a neighbor and friend of ours who manages a local brewery participates in the program and recommended we join.”
Has your business benefitted from working with Frontline Foods?
“Absolutely. The extra cash flow helps us keep our workers employed in this time of uncertainty. Plus, we find it really rewarding to help feed our local healthcare workers, many of whom are also regular customers outside of work.”
Did you have to make changes to your existing business to work with Frontline Foods?
“Very little. Fortunately, our business was already set up for bulk, individually packaged takeout food. We were already selling to-go meals, as well as meal kits. We didn’t have to change much. Beyond that, it’s been very easy and convenient to work with Frontline.”
How are you thinking about the future of your business in light of COVID-19? Do you have long term plans to adapt to our new normal?
“We’ve always tended towards encouraging people to deliver and take-out, and this has just strengthened that. We’re continuing to focus on those options and making food delivery and takeout as easy, streamlined, and convenient as possible for our customers.”
What do you love about being a business owner?
“Honestly, it’s a whole mix of things. Personally, I just love seeing projects come to fruition. It’s so rewarding to make a plan, set a goal, get people on board, work on it, and just realize one day that you’ve succeeded. At the same time, it’s like a catch-22 because the moment you meet one metric, a dozen new ones pop up and you’ve got your sight set on the next project. That’s the fun in all of it.”
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.