Restaurant Highlight: Glasserie

Before COVID-19, Glasserie was another Brooklyn restaurant enjoying loyal clientele, great atmosphere and a community eager to eat their delicious Mediterranean food. Glasserie has added intrigue because they’re built on the grounds of a defunct glass factory, making for gorgeous glass fixtures that give any private event a special touch.

When the situation with COVID-19 grew more dire, Sara Conklin, the owner, knew she had to make some decisions about what was important to the restaurant. She determined what was professionally and financially necessary for operation and cut out all the rest.

Glasserie moved primarily online after local shutdown orders closed down their dine-in services. Like restaurants in similar situations all over the world, Glasserie used to get most of their revenue from dine-in customers and had to figure out how to promote themselves in this new, digital arena.

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Diving Into Delivery

Glasserie prepared to channel focus into their online ordering system so that they could use delivery to make money throughout the pandemic. However they quickly found out about the major problems that have turned a lot of small businesses off of using third party platforms.

Delivery apps charge high commission fees, and Glasserie also discovered that many tech providers were too slow to do the job they needed. They occasionally used Caviar, a takeout and delivery app owned by DoorDash, to fill takeout orders when they experienced lulls in the past, but the issues with them weren’t sustainable for long-term use or for handling the majority of their business. After the pandemic closed dine-in services, they tried Seamless, Grubhub, DoorDash and more but found that in addition to high fees, they had trouble getting fast service from the apps themselves. In some cases, it took over six weeks to update menu photos and make other adjustments.

Instead, Glasserie searched for new technology that would do exactly what they needed while they retained the majority of the profits. They tried out Square, a Point of Sale company that gave them a basic website to use, among other services. Once online, Glasserie started expanding their virtual store: They’re creating new dishes that are better suited for delivery; they’re also selling anything they can offer, from toilet paper to wine, beer and cocktails—now that New York legalized the off-premise sale of spirits. Cutting-edge restaurant technology can completely revitalize small businesses.

By abandoning third party platforms, the restaurant was able to focus on bringing customers directly to them and now receive the bulk of the profits from their hard work. As Conklin says, “There is no book or anything that we’re following.” They adjust their practices in accordance with each challenge and new phase of reopening that they face.

Take Advantage of the Digital Age

What falls out of fashion always comes back years later, slightly improved but fundamentally the same. When delivery and takeout wasn’t enough, Glasserie unearthed a compilation of old emails that they used for marketing; they would send out a few email blasts per year which reached approximately 23K customers.

However, they found that disjointed mass marketing didn’t resonate with their core audience and wasn’t effective enough to sway a majority of recipients to their restaurant anyway. As part of revitalizing their online presence, they narrowed down their core audience and started sending out three to five email blasts per week to only their most loyal customers, advertising special offers and other deals relevant to their interests. Since changing gears, they’ve noticed more positive responses from their customer base.

To help keep things fresh and interesting, Glasserie now offers a special menu that changes every week. They also opened a window to process walk-in orders for drinks and bar snacks. As New York shifts into phase two of their reopening process, Glasserie expects to allow outdoor seating so that customers can enjoy a sit-down meal with them once again. They’re not the only restaurant making the shift from indoor service either.

These positive changes have increased Glasserie’s earnings to around half of what they generated when they operated at full capacity, an impressive feat in a time when so many restaurants are closing. Conklin estimates that approximately 95% of their sales come directly through their website now, rather than via third party apps. They hope to keep that business for themselves when the pandemic is over and everyone finally returns to their normal lives—whatever “normal” looks like by then.

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As the world moves forward and hopefully starts to heal from this global pandemic, Glasserie and restaurants just like them should take the new strengths they’ve developed and channel them into continued growth. Although there’s no telling exactly what the world will look like by then, restaurants should continue to build these skills because flexibility, adaptability and digitization will definitely be a part of it.

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