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Restaurants going Retail.

Empty tables but lines of people queue around the building.

Even when things seem to be going incredibly wrong for anyone involved in the restaurant business, you occasionally come across a little bit of genius that makes for pleasant reading. Of course there are countless stories of generosity that come out of moments like this — those donating to charity from current supplies, managers providing free rooms for rent for laid off employees and cafes (like Pret a Manger amidst many others) and hotel providers opening up their doors to provide food, drinks or shelter to the many health workers that are working around the clock.

However, this story talks to the entrepreneurial spirit that impressed me so much after my recent visit to the Water Grill in Costa Mesa, California. After my wife noticed their Instagram notice and customer email about a pop up market sale, I was instantly intrigued. Here we have one of the elite fish houses (as part of King’s Seafood Company) offering a market sale — only a few hours after the governor of California ordered all restaurants to shut for everything bar takeout/ delivery. Retail stores of course were permitted to remain open.

Water Grill sits hundreds of people every evening and countless more through the day as it’s situated close to South Coast Plaza, John Wayne SNA Orange County airport and the main 405 Freeway. It’s a pretty perfect spot for a business meeting, date or special occasion. The volumes they order to service the amount of people that come to their restaurant each day are huge.

Sadly, their recent order for food was not able to be cancelled in time following the Governor’s mandatory closure of restaurants across the state. Their management was left with thousands of dollars of inventory.

But quickly they made a plan to fire sale all of those recently procured premium graded fish, steaks and top quality produce from their clearly well vetted supply base.

Come 1.15pm, the line around the building with customers was getting longer by the minute. Word had got out and the community at large had arrived to support one of their favorite restaurants in the area.

It took about 30–40 minutes before we were ushered in to a marquee staging area where we were briefed about how to act with ‘social distance’ in mind, procure items by asking the various members of staff for the item at which point they would update your slip of paper with the price and produce code. They reminded us to practice ‘social distancing’ and how the procession would work with only a few people allowed to enter the market at a time.

The foods were protected and held in appropriately temperature controlled locations and priced incredibly favorably. The video at the bottom shows what my wife and I were able to buy for just $138. After working my biceps and strength with the various bags I was holding of vegetables, dairy and wines, we progressed through to the main event. The restaurant itself.

Here we were told to wait for a few moments while our concierge was to come and join us. The lovely lady that helped us explained that there were all sorts of fish and meat available and she would happy to explain anything to us regarding the choices available. We picked up Swordfish, Mahi, Salmon, Tuna, Fillets, Dry Aged Ribeyes & more. Once complete and with bags full, we were kindly passed over to another lady who totalled up our tickets and processed payment. Before leaving we were gifted two bags of lemons and limes and a $10 Water Grill gift voucher so that we could return once the restaurant was allowed to re-open.

Wow…..what a customer experience.

What a way to manage waste effectively. What a way to ensure that inventory loss was not a complete financial disaster and then finally, how impressive to have such an orderly, clear path of instructions and process to manage the hundreds of guests that had arrived that day.

Congrats to the management and staff at the Water Grill. You made a significant impression and we’ll be back as soon as we can. I know my wife and I wish you all as much luck and security as you deserve as you (hopefully) temporarily close the doors this evening and recover this wonderful establishment to its rightful role as a restaurant as soon as possible but if not, you sure do make a great retailer too. The Water Grill is managed by Kyle Gosselin with Executive Chef, Eduardo Albarran. It is located at 3300 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (Tel: 949.208.7060)


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