Tapas sharing-style plates are a tricky sell during a pandemic. Seeing customers shy away from communal meals forced a Michigan restaurant to transition its menu, take a hard look at portability and rely on its POS system for inventory and cost control.
The popular San Chez A Tapas Bistro in Grand Rapids began to re-examine its menu the moment tables were closed to dine-in customers in March. About 70% of the menu was cut because of reduced demand, labor challenges, product availability and inventory waste.
Now that the restaurant is open at 50% dine-in capacity, co-owners Cindy Lotterman-Schneider and Dan Schneider say the menu has been cut in half again, with attention on reducing kitchen prep and increasing product cross-utilization. Decisions are driven by their chef and POS reports.
“We get great menu mixes and a weekly report on what we sell and what does and doesn’t cross-utilize,” Cindy says. Paella, a menu mainstay, is off the menu for now.
With a downtown location that once thrived on office workers and event traffic, San Chez now sees 20% of its revenue from to-go foods. Cindy credits success in this area to working with Gordon Food Service packaging expert Jean Van Horn.
Dan agrees: “We put products in bags and let them sit for 20 minutes to see how it would look and taste as takeout. With takeout tapas, you lose that beautiful presentation, so we have to make sure the quality is good.”
Another change for San Chez has been using a QR code to communicate its dine-in menu, and Cindy says it’s been a big logistical and financial help.
“We can change the menu in real time—remove items or update pricing,” she says. “And with no paper or reusable menus, it’s also a perception of safety that people can see.”
Despite the challenges, Dan Schneider remains positive: “People’s enthusiasm for going out to eat isn’t that big right now. I think the popularity of the cashless payment and no-contact pickup is going to be a sign of the times for a while. In the meantime, we’re confident that by paying attention to safety, listening to customers, we will come out stronger.”