A pandemic-proof restaurant? A Greensboro gastropub may have a solution and it starts with a virtual kitchen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A pandemic-proof restaurant? It may start with a virtual kitchen.

More people want their food delivered and The Social on Friendly is finding a way to adapt to the community’s changing habits and still make money.

Chris Engle owns the gastropub in Greensboro. It’s one of hundreds of independently owned restaurants in the Triad suffering from the shutdowns, capacity limits and a list of other challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“When you cut it to 50% then survival becomes very, very difficult. So, if you can have these virtual brands that you can use, it helps your payroll, it helps you make ends meet and allows you to hopefully survive,” said Engle.

Engle is embracing the latest idea to come out of a boom in online food ordering: a virtual kitchen.

“It’s solely online, solely third-party delivery. You can order it, but you can’t go in and eat anywhere,” said Engle.

Engle says he is partnering with a group in Colorado to fulfill food orders from six different brands, in addition to his restaurant’s menu. The orders are placed through a vendor like Uber Eats, DoorDash or Grubhub. All the food is prepared in Engle’s kitchen and then heads out the door.

“Drivers will come in one order after the other and they are like I just came here to pick up a burger for such and such and now I’m picking up wings,” said Engle.

Engle says the virtual kitchen concept is another way to help them keep the lights on.

“What it did for us was created a way to continue to bring in revenue, and no it doesn’t change the effects it’s had on restaurants, but it does help blunt some of the economic impact on us.”

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