Innovation doesn’t always need to be punctuated by fancy technology or a new craze, though it is true that many more industries have embraced the reach and contactless benefits of technology in their day-to-day operations. But what if contact, and gathering, and community is at the core of what your business provides? What if you run a neighborhood eatery or watering hole? The COVID-19 crisis has left no industry untouched. But as lockdown restrictions lift and shift, the dining industry remains one of the primary sectors unable to return to business as usual. However, necessity breeds innovation, and this year has seen perhaps the largest surge of restaurant and bar innovation in the last ten years.
One such local (to us) business was recently highlighted by Wine Enthusiast for their prioritization of community despite the communal challenges of the pandemic. All Together Now is a bottle shop and all-day eatery and market based in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago. They were a shop bustling with friends, neighbors and dates. But once the stay at home order was established in Illinois, their usual business bustle had to shift to online transactions and carry-out options.
So, how did All Together Now, a shop to which gathering is so important it is in their name, bring their neighborhood the same experience but in a COVID-safe format? Well, first things first, they started offering their team health benefits. “It obviously is always precarious to work in the service industry,” owner Erin Carlman Weber told Wine Enthusiast, “[but] coming to work during a global health crisis all of a sudden got a lot scarier.”
Weber continued to say “If we’re going to ask our team to continue to work during the pandemic, we needed to offer them health coverage. Being able to do that also challenged us to reorder our values as a business.”
From an external offering perspective, they shifted heavily to takeaway services, interacting with their customers through a window originally installed to let a nice breeze through the shop in the warmer months. They also changed up what they were buying: favoring cases of $20 bottles of wine over more expensive options, bringing in more natural wines, incorporating even more local chefs and food producers than they already offered, and exploring new ways to provide the warm, wine educational opportunities patrons used to expect in store.
In the wake of all of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis and the virtual transformation of every-day in-person events and activities, it’s refreshing to see a business put their people and their community first like All Together Now has done.