From Tweezers to Takeout: An Interview with Chef Cam Dobranski
Cam Dobranski is a busy man. When he’s not running his two Calgary eateries, Winebar Kensington and EATCROW Snack Bar, he’s making the industry look sharper with Medium Rare Chef Apparel and Spirit Wares. We caught up with Cam to talk about how takeout affected his outlets this year.
Prior to COVID, was takeout / meal replacement a major part of your business?
Not really – Takeout meals definitely helped us survive. We had to adjust to make the menus a little more appealing and to make sure it traveled well. We also shortened our menus to adjust to the labour situation and actually operated 4 concepts out of one kitchen as it didn’t make sense to have multiple kitchens in operation. It was a pain logistically but we made it work. This also made us rethink our menus for the future as well.
How much of your business shifted during the pandemic? What percentage shrunk? What was the ratio of takeout to dine-in?
Definitely in-restaurant dining is hurting during the pandemic but thankfully we have a patio to compensate and the city allowed us to expand it so that was a life changer.
We were down between 70-90% depending on the start of the pandemic. Our restaurants have different models but the casual concepts were 30% takeout to 70% patio/dine-in when things kind of went back to normal whereas the more higher-end restaurant only did 5% takeout to patio/dine in. People really just want pizza, burgers or tacos. Dining has changed during the pandemic.
By having these extended patios, I think this was a good experiment for the cities and I think it will help restaurants in the future and for us to keep the extended patios for the future.
What did you do internally to accommodate takeout demands? Did you need to change anything?
We just had to reimagine the concepts, and think about what people really wanted such as comfort food and things that were easy to execute. As we did not have our regular team and we were down 90% in staff, we had to make things simpler for sure.
Also, takeout boxes and trying to make things look appetizing after they were delivered was always on our minds. As a good restaurant, we wanted to make sure we were still serving quality products.