With the restaurant industry impacted hard by the pandemic, businesses have had to generate new ideas to retain and attract customers.
Southington’s Nina’s Desi Restaurant used an unconventional way to gain publicity.
“We started making food for people and giving it out for free,” co-owner Antif Anwar said. “We made good friends that way. People that couldn’t pay at the time and can now are still coming here and have turned into customers.”
Nina’s Desi Restauant, 26 N. Main St., is owned by Anwar and his wife Nina. Despite their efforts since opening in March, the business is making barely enough.
“We initially thought about hiring but all of that is on hold,” Anwar said. “We are just us, working without a paycheck. We are working so that the business can stay afloat.”
He is aware of the speculation about another ban on indoor dining, but because his Pakistani restaurant is mostly takeout, it wouldn’t change much for him.
AmericanSoul Kitchen and Bar, a soul food restaurant in Meriden, opened before the pandemic and was successful.
Since the pandemic started, things have not been the same, manager Nikki Singletary said.
“We’ve been able to keep a steady pace of customers, but in terms of what we were doing pre-COVID, it’s definitely a drastic change,” she said.
Since the restaurant counts on alcohol sales, Singletary said it was important to come up with innovative ways to sell alcohol with takeout meals.
Since March, the state has allowed restaurants with a bar to sell alcohol to-go as long as it is accompanying a meal sold by the restaurant.
“We’ve been trying to find ways to get alcohol sales going,” Singletary said. “We sell single drinks and bottles of wine to-go.”
Southington bakery, Nonnie’s Pies and Creations, opened almost three months ago and owner Nella Lastrina has seen a decline every month.
“There’s no real parties going on, no real get togethers so that’s what makes it a bit difficult,” Lastrina said. “But, I’m really happy I opened, the residents have been so supportive.”
Lastrina features cream pies, but she also specializes in custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other treats. She said the best thing has been the positive feedback that she has gotten from customers, which made opening during this unusual time worth it.
Her use of social media has helped with generating business. Lastrina also recently added coffee to her menu. She said her most popular items are cupcakes.
“I have a variety, so people have choices,” the owner said. “Cupcakes seem to be the thing right now, especially with COVID because they are packaged individually so it’s easier.”