Since mid-March, businesses around the world have been forced to find outside-the-box solutions to the impact of Coronavirus. While all industries have taken a beating, restaurants have faced their own unique set of challenges. As we’ve seen, many have risen to the challenge, including Winston-Salem landmark, Midtown Cafe & Dessertery. For over 30 years, Midtown has been a staple in the community, but with the onset of COVID-19 and the state-issued restrictions, owner Jeff Cayton and his team have had to reinvent the business model.
“Unfortunately,” said Jeff, “We have had to lay off 90% of our staff, but we are working hard to make sure they have a place to come back to. We miss them and value them. This is very much a family-oriented business, and we want our business to survive this, so we can put our people back to work as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
“The big challenge,” he continued, “is making sure our communication stays strong with the public. Without a daily flow of traffic in the restaurant, we’ve had to rely heavily on social media, e-blasts, and online ordering in order to keep in touch with our customers. What has been really amazing is that even with a 30+ year history in the community and a shutdown order to navigate, we still have new customers discovering Midtown!”
Midtown Cafe & Dessertery has a reputation for hospitality. With their seasoned waitstaff, it’s truly a place where people know your name. “We’ve had to translate our normal in-person hospitality to a ‘to-go- only business,’” said Jeff. “Our focus has been on family dinners. We have frozen ‘take home and bake’ everyone loves, including Moravian-style Chicken Pies, Quiches, and Lasagnas, and we also have our weekly take-home fully-cooked reheatable meal deal. Those have been a huge hit—Meatloaf, Pulled Pork, and both our meat and butternut squash lasagnas.”
The Midtown team has also focused on bringing Daily Dinner Features to feed a group, or they are available as individual servings. And to adapt to the needs of their customers, those entrees are ready at 12 PM instead of the normal 3 PM. Jeff shared, “Our Daily Dinner Features are meals that people love, but probably don’t make at home very often.”
Additionally, Midtown has created fun ideas, including Spaghetti Feature, Taco Kits for 4, and Breakfast for Dinner. “We’ve found that the present challenge has really awakened our imaginations to the possibilities of what we can offer our customers,” confirmed Jeff. And as Midtown has adjusted to meet the circumstances, they’ve also discovered a big win. “We had our Great American Seafood Fry Weekend,” Jeff reflected. “We offered Fish ‘n Chips, Crispy Fried Jumbo Shrimp, and Hushpuppies. We’ve been blown away by the popularity so much that we plan to keep that going every weekend, even after we’re able to resume normal operations.”
Jeff also shared that the dessertery part of the business is still available. “We know that people still want to treat themselves, even during difficult times. We’re still offering our full dessert menu, including the newest addition—featured individual creations. Our master baker came up with those shortly before the shutdown, and they change weekly, based on his inspiration. Our customers can find out the week’s selection on Facebook, Instagram, or by calling the restaurant.
“Through this,” Jeff continued, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support. We appreciate all our customers and their willingness to support us through this challenge. Even Easter weekend—we fed over 400 people take-home meals! We have been able to continue to provide tasty meals at affordable prices that meet the needs of even the pickiest eaters! While we look forward to the day when we can resume in-house dining with our amazing staff back at what they are great at doing, we feel thankful and blessed. We are going to be stronger on the other side of this. These lessons won’t be forgotten, and we look forward to applying much of what we’ve learned to the future.”
Midtown Cafe & Dessertery is centrally and conveniently located at 151 South Stratford Road in Winston-Salem. Their normal hours of operation are Sunday–Thursday from 7 AM–8:30 PM; Friday–Saturday from 7 AM–9:30 PM. Call them at 336.724.9800, or visit them online at MidtownCafeWS.com. Be sure to download their app! Check out their catering and Midtown Market menus. Stay up-to-date on special events and features by liking their Facebook page or following them on Instagram.