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How COVID-19 Is Redefining Local Hospitality

In times of uncertainty, we usually turn to simple comforts—a favorite food, a beloved corner restaurant, or a go-to happy hour—to lift our spirits. But, as COVID-19 continues to change the ways people can seek comfort, the hospitality businesses we know and love are adapting, too.

For restaurants and others in the hospitality industry, change is the key ingredient keeping doors open and staff employed. At Squarespace, we’ve seen so many businesses responding creatively to the pandemic—and, as a result, building stronger connections with the people they serve.

From a craft distillery turned hand sanitizer manufacturer, to an artisan ice cream shop pivoting to grocery delivery, we talked to businesses across the U.S. about the necessary and remarkable ways they’re responding to COVID-19.

Focusing on front line support

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Some restaurants are addressing the pandemic head-on by supporting people on the front lines—and they’re gaining customer loyalty in the process. Gertie, a Brooklyn restaurant, has redirected its staff and supplies to operate as a soup kitchen, feeding nurses, doctors, the homeless, and other vulnerable communities in New York City.

While Gertie’s work has been no small feat, General Partner and Manager Flip Biddelman says the motivation is simple: “Community is and always has been our top priority, and restaurants are nothing without their community.” In the midst of all this change, Gertie is keeping customers connected through a regularly updated site, offering donation-based yoga classes, and direct donation options to support its work. To date, Gertie has raised nearly $50,000, which is only one measure of how the restaurant’s front line work is deepening its community roots.

Expanding product offerings

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For all businesses, and especially those in hospitality, it’s been necessary to reevaluate what customers and communities actually need right now. After closing their tasting room as a safety precaution, Freeland Spirits, a Portland-based craft distillery, started manufacturing hand sanitizer, which customers can now pick up along with their spirits and mixers. 

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For Pop Up Grocer, a traveling temporary store showcasing products from innovative brands, the challenge was translating their pop-up experience in a world where everyone is staying at home. They quickly launched The Joy Box, a grocery delivery made up of a surprise assortment that, in addition to spreading joy, donates 10% of every purchase to Feeding America. The expanded offering has inspired an outpouring of community support.

Partnering with other local businesses

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No matter the size of the town or city, businesses are also finding success by banding together. After Oklahoma City’s shelter in place orders went out, the founders of Capitals Ice Cream came together to launch CityBox, which delivers boxes of curated goods from local vendors. They risked a new endeavor during the pandemic because, in the words of co-founder Layne Ferguson, they “truly believe that local businesses are better together right now.” Their hypothesis is proving correct—nearly every business they reached out to jumped at the opportunity to collaborate, and since launching a few weeks ago, CityBox has already expanded beyond Oklahoma City, with the aim to grow into a national service soon.

Staying nimble

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Above all else, businesses are staying flexible and responsive to the needs of their customers. Golden Diner, a restaurant in lower Manhattan, has embraced the idea that change is the new constant by testing offerings like waived delivery fees and affordable lunch specials to retain customers. As circumstances evolve week to week, and sometimes day by day, this sense of experimentation carries across every business working to find its way.

At Squarespace, we’re here to support you through every evolution, with 24/7 Customer Care and tools like Extensions and Email Campaigns that enable closer connections with your customers in this new normal.

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