SALT LAKE CITY — Restaurant owners have been faced with challenge after challenge for nearly a year now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant business particularly hard.
The founders of Vessel Kitchen are among those impacted, but through the pandemic, they have found innovative ways to pivot and not only stay open but also expand.
In March, the world as we knew it changed. COVID-19 began to rule conversations, decisions and our healthcare system. As things started to shut down, the fourth Vessel Kitchen location on 9th and 9th in Salt Lake City was under construction.
“We had to look at each other and say, 'Do we have the conviction to keep this thing going?'” Vessel Kitchen founder Nick Gradinger said.
The short answer was yes. Now, they had to figure out how.
They decided to abide by one principle Gradinger said.
“Let’s make sure we have done everything in our power to take care of our staff and to be as creative as possible to persevere throughout for what would be a very tumultuous next year,” he said.
Through pivoting the business model while staying true to the core values of healthy, locally sourced food, Gradinger said they were able to find success in this past year.
“We didn’t want to just rest on our laurels and say that the circumstances were too difficult,” he said.
The group has focused on curbside, take-out and delivery services. While Vessel Kitchen does offer dine in, that is not bringing in the most income right now, general manager James Pospishil said. The fast-casual concept bodes well for take-out.
“Everything from top to bottom has changed, from hiring and staffing to COVID protocols to sanitation, we have a new curbside service. Even just the fact that my staff are in masks,” Pospishil said.
The past almost year has also come with its challenges and a dip in business, Gradinger admitted.
“We have had some significant losses at some of our stores, and the fact of the matter is we just try to continue to look ahead and have conviction in what we do," he said. "And despite the losses... to stay true to who we are.”
Continuing to try new things and figure out what works and what will help build success is what Gradinger said they are committed to doing.