In this series, we learn from small businesses across the country how they are adapting in the world of COVID-19.
Many small businesses were required to close their doors to comply with social distancing guidelines during COVID-19. Despite the dining room closures, one chef in Texas was able to shift his business plan and help his restaurants thrive until he could legally reopen.
Austin Simmons is the Executive Chef of three restaurants in The Woodlands, Texas. He decided to close Cureight, a high-end dining experience, to focus on shifting the other two establishments to takeout only. The Kitchen was relatively easy to modify due to its casual menu. However, TRIS, a semi-fine dining restaurant, required a little more innovation.
In less than 48 hours, they pivoted their offerings to more family-friendly dishes to comfort and support their community’s needs. After everything was in place, they took to social media.
“Social media is king,” Chef Simmons said. He found this out after posting a video on his personal Instagram showing how they make to-go orders of the TRIS Chocolate Cake 2.0. They saw a massive spike in demand for the dessert, receiving upwards of 80 orders.
In addition, through the hard work of his team and the power of social media, Easter Sunday was one of TRIS’s most successful days to date. Even though the dining room was closed, TRIS was able to serve hundreds of holiday dinners through curbside pickup, complete with reheating instructions.
Although Chef Simmons could have opened his restaurants on May 1, 2020, he held off for a few weeks, wanting to see how the Texas community responded to the state reopening. After seeing a positive response, two out of his three restaurants opened at partial capacity in mid-May.
With the reopening of his businesses, Chef Simmons plans to keep a few of the COVID-19 changes moving forward. Most notably a strong social media presence and curbside pickup for select dishes. “Solid food that travels well is a big opportunity for future business,” he confirmed, “And an easy-to-use online platform is key. If you don’t have an efficient website, it’s time to get one.”
In addition, he advises businesses to adapt. “The grind is real. What you did before is not going to work again,” he advises, “It’s going to take some time but if you can make it through this, you’ll be successful on the other end.”
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Texas-born and raised Chef Austin has been impressing guests all over the world, first at Dallas’s famed Mansion on Turtle Creek, and later at John Tesar’s Modern Steak & Seafood. Today, Chef Austin sources ingredients from around the world and combines them with unrivaled technique and vision at TRIS, Cureight & The Kitchen in The Woodlands. The result is cuisine that is unmatched in The Woodlands and among the finest in Texas. For more information, visit www.chefaustinsimmons.com