MARSHALL – With dinner services no longer available in restaurants throughout the state of Minnesota, local companies have grappled with the issue of how much food to order from their suppliers to meet customer needs, while also preventing food waste.
Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said this was a problem raised by many restaurants in the area over the past week.
“The product (food) has an expiration date so we have a few questions about what we do with this product.” Said Hanson. “We have had very good talks with our legislators, Chris Swedzinski and Gary Dahms, sort of revealing the side effects of his business.”
One of the Brau Brothers Brewing Company owners, Dustin Brau, said ordering food was always changing, but this pandemic made things even harder.
“Yes, we must (must limit food orders),” said Brau. “All food orders vary, so just take it to another level.”
In combating food waste, Brau Brothers has shortened its menu to emphasize best-selling items that allow them to buy in large quantities.
“Basically, tightening your menu and kind of taking a second look at items that you might not sell as much (has become a strategy),” Brau said. “But then we have some specials where it’s a little easier to order large quantities.”
Changes have been applied to the way they sell their beer as well with closed tap space to customers. As a result, the company has increased the production of packaged goods to meet the needs of liquor stores.
“We shift our production at the brewery to packaged goods,” Brau said. “We don’t send the cask out the door like we used to, but we send a lot of casings outside the door, so we really increase our beer production. Partly because we have a small supply but partly because we want to make sure the liquor store has inventory the good ones and also the growers themselves. “
Farther away from Main Street in Hunan Lion, the pandemic created an immediate problem when restaurants made regular orders to their suppliers but could not sell all of them as a result of restrictions on dinner services.
“We have to reduce the amount we ordered,” said one of the owners of Hunan Lion, Sara Ektanitphong. “When (the pandemic) has just begun, yes (we have some leftovers) because you did not expect that, and you are ready. We can only take takeout immediately, so some leftovers will occur.”
Other restaurants, with help and support from the community, have not seen changes in the way they operate and order from suppliers. Even with their alcohol sales eliminated, Varsity Pub on Main Street has seen food sales remain stable during the pandemic thanks to a large number of pickup and delivery orders.
“To be honest, that hasn’t changed much,” said General Manager of Varsity Pub, Brenna Ahlquist. “Looking at sales, it’s clear that alcohol sales we can’t do, but as far as food sales, support from the community is really fantastic and I really haven’t really seen a change or a decline in our food sales-wise.”
Special sales and promotions help drive business further
Be it drive-thru through French fries at Brau Brothers, or specials with wings and pizza at Varsity Pub, there is no shortage of unique promotions at local restaurants in hopes of driving sales and moving products out the door.
Varsity Pub has even extended some of its specials that are usually provided for dinners which now apply to takeout services as a way to attract customers and increase sales.
“We will start our special meal again,” Said Ahlquist. “We will also do it for this period of time.”
At Brau Brothers, Friday fish customers drive their cars at the door awaiting their order for a battered cod fillet basket of beer. The fried fish attracts enough business on March 27 which the Brau Brothers decided to continue on last Friday.