Our industry has changed drastically over the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of all of the struggle, foodservice businesses have been innovating and rising above to remain open and active during this time. We have been so impressed with our industry as a whole as everyone adapts to this new normal.
I recently spoke to Cheryl Munoz, owner of River Forest Kitchen in Forest Park, Illinois about how she has managed to modify her operations to keep her business afloat and support those who use the commercial kitchen space during this time.
1. How has your business changed over the last two months?
River Forest Kitchen is a shared commercial kitchen utilized by over a dozen small food businesses. Some of our chefs have lost sales in the restaurant and retail sector and are making up sales by offering Curbside Pick-up and Delivery of their food. For instance, Karl Bader of Karl’s Craft Soups is offering a Wednesday night Soup and Salad meal. The soups are all vegetarian and vegan and customers can add on homemade cookies and bread, as well. The community is grateful to have healthy take out options and Karl is happy to be working and earning an income through this changing economy. As kitchen manager, I promote the sales of our chefs and help organize orders. I also make the cookies and bread!
Our building is also home to my cooking school for kids, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse. I am now offering Friday night Pizza Kits for pick-up and delivery as well as Virtual Cooking Classes. Today we are making handmade Farfalle! I love connecting with my students and am receiving wonderful feedback from families about the classes.
2. What has been your biggest challenge?
Learning new systems is always hard. I’ve had to devise new systems for food orders and communication with customers. Everyone has been patient and gracious and we are finally feeling confident about our work. Learning curves are steep for everyone now but we’ve overcome many challenges with our customers’ support.
3. Tell us something good that has happened!
Even though I’ve worked in the food industry for years I have never been a production cook. I am now making 45 cinnamon rolls loaves in a day for pick-up and 100 balls of pizza dough for pizza kits. I’ve struggled through a bit but now LOVE getting into the kitchen to bake and am feeling super confident with my skills. It’s fun to learn and it’s rewarding to serve great food to my community. When your work feels healing you know you’re doing something good.
4. How can people support you right now?
Our chefs are so excited to offer curbside and porch delivery! Sugar Beet Schoolhouse is also offering VIRTUAL COOKING CLASSES!
New Rose Catering - Monday and Tuesday porch delivery of family favorites.
Karl’s Craft Soup - Wednesday evening Soup Salad and Bread pick-up and delivery.
Sugar Beet Schoolhouse - Friday afternoon Pizza Kits, Salads and Cinnamon Roll pick up and delivery.
Popify - Artisanal Popsicle porch delivery.
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