8 creative ways that retailers, restaurants, and service workers are staying afloat during coronavirus shutdowns

Businesses and workers are stepping up to the challenge of staying afloat during a pandemic.

Businesses and workers are stepping up to the challenge of staying afloat during a pandemic.
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  • The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in shutdowns and massive losses for retailers, restaurants, and their workers.
  • But many are supplementing their income losses by pivoting to new tactics and opportunities that are more suited to the pandemic.
  • Here are eight ways that retailers and workers are still making money while most stores and restaurants are shut down.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Much of America is bracing for the worst of the coronavirus pandemic by shutting down nonessential businesses.

That shutdown has resulted in catastrophic loss of income for businesses, forcing many to close their doors temporarily or even permanently. And countless waiters, retail workers, and fitness instructors have found themselves suddenly out of a job.

But businesses and workers are stepping up to the challenge of staying afloat during a pandemic and finding new – and often creative – ways to continue making money.

Here are some of those ways:

Fine-dining establishments started offering takeout and delivery

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Seattle fine-dining restaurant Canlis switched to be a drive-thru and carry-out operation just as Washington State’s bars and restaurants were ordered to shut their doors. Canlis has since become delivery-only, offering family meals on Tock, which was previously a reservation service.

After restaurants and bars in other locations across the nation were barred from operating dining rooms, countless other restaurants followed suit. Michelin-starred Alinea in Chicago, which usually sells out of bookings for $300 tasting menus months in advance, now sells comfort food to-go. Carbone’s famous veal parm drew crowds of delivery people after the notoriously exclusive New York restaurant announced it was open for takeout.

Reservation sites now take delivery orders

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With reservations no longer a factor in the restaurant industry, reservation-specific websites have pivoted to offering pick-up and delivery. Tock and Resy, both previously exclusively reservation websites, wrote and implemented new code that transformed their sites’ function completely to serve restaurants’ needs during the pandemic.

Now, you can find all of the offerings of fine dining and local restaurants on reservation platforms. These include virtual classes, takeout, delivery, and sometimes even produce boxes.

Restaurants are also offering preparation kits for their most popular meals

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Canlis is also selling a produce box through Tock, while The Publican in Chicago has focused on selling meats and other provisions to be prepared at home.

Meanwhile, Bund on Broadway, a dumpling restaurant in Queens, New York, sold out of a frozen dumpling and steamer combo it advertised on Instagram. Also in New York, Sichuan drypot favorite MaLa Project has started offering jarred sauces and packaged noodles so that customers can make their own meals at home.

Chain restaurants started offering free and contactless delivery en masse

Contactless delivery in China.
Yum China

Chipotle and KFC were some of the first major fast-food chains to start offering free delivery during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, free delivery is widespread and even commonplace. As chain restaurants are being forced to close their dining rooms around the country, delivery has become even more essential to their business.

Chains have also started offering contactless delivery to reassure customers at home that ordering delivery can be safe. Major pizza chains like Papa John’s and Domino’s, which have seen a boost in popularity since the pandemic-related shutdowns began, have started offering contactless delivery nationwide.

Small businesses are asking customers to buy gift cards

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Many small businesses that have been forced to close their doors have asked guests to buy gift cards so they can cover their immediate losses. However, this is a short-term solution that won’t do much to mitigate small businesses’ losses in the long term. Gift cards provide a cash injection now, but eventually, businesses will have to make good on the credit they sell to customers.

Fitness studios are turning to virtual classes as large gatherings are banned

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Group workouts were one of the first luxuries to go, and that meant that mom-and-pop operations like martial arts gyms, boutique fitness studios, and other smaller businesses saw their income fall off a cliff.

Classpass, a service that previously sold credits for in-person fitness classes at various gyms and fitness studios, relaunched its class livestreaming service, which had previously been scrapped.

Conbody in New York, which usually holds its prison-style boot camps in a jail cell-like studio, is one of the many small gyms to start offering livestreams through Classpass.

Home fitness titan Peloton has heavily discounted monthly subscriptions for its app, which is focused on at-home workouts. And Mindfl, a meditation studio in New York, created Mindfl TV and started offering its classes virtually.

Former restaurant workers are turning to grocery, delivery, and fulfillment jobs

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Restaurant workers have been among the hardest hit by mass layoffs during the shutdowns. In the meantime, demand for labor has shifted from the restaurant industry to delivery, grocery, and fulfillment. Of all the types of restaurants still operating, pizza delivery is seeing the largest growth.

Additionally, grocery stores, pharmacies, delivery services like Instacart, and Amazon are some of the biggest employers that are hiring right now. As Amazon struggles to fill its orders even with restrictions imposed, customers are seeing Prime orders delayed until as late as May, and Jeff Bezos is begging restaurant workers to come work for Amazon.

These might be the perfect temporary gigs for restaurant workers. The boom in grocery and delivery will likely last as long as the shutdown of restaurants.

Apparel retailers are amping up online sales and waiving delivery fees

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced retailers across the country to close their doors.

But retailers haven’t given up on trying to woo customers quite yet. Major sales have popped up across the online marketplace, often coquettishly quarantine-themed.

Apparel sales targeted at the work-from-home crowd include Everlane’s two-pack deal for its “comfort styles.” Madewell started offering a “Bright Spot” sale on its website, and fast-fashion retailer Fashion Nova launched a “Stay In, Stay Cozy” sale.