Aaron Deal acted quickly as the walls of the COVID-19 pandemic came closing in around The River and Rail, the fine-dining restaurant in Roanoke, Va., where he’s managing partner.
Forced to close the dining room, Deal shifted quickly, simplifying the menu and creating family meals that could feed up to six people that his customers could take and heat up at home.
He also started selling uncooked meat, and smoking pork loins for guests to cook for themselves. He collaborated with a local coffee roaster to amp up his brunch options. River and Rail became the drop-off point for local CSAs, or community supported agriculture, a type of subscription service for local produce.
On top of that, once the Commonwealth of Virginia started allowing the restaurant to sell cocktails, he did that, too, formulating kits for customers to shake their own Mojitos and Margaritas at home. He’s retailing wine and beer, too.
“If you can imagine it coming out of a restaurant space, that’s what we’ve done,” Deal said.
“It’s a goat rodeo of things,” none of which generates enough income to support the business, but together it has added up to enough revenue to allow Deal to keep about 75% of his staff employed.
Watch the video to learn more about how Aaron Deal has spent the past six weeks.
This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.
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