District Restaurant News | Fall 2020

Page 9

The second location of Indian fast casual Rasa debuted in Washington, DC during the pandemic. On August 1, co-founders Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman opened their second restaurant overall and first location in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood—an area with a large, diverse population and normally a big influx of tourists. It’s just adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, home to multiple US and international conferences. This year, Walter E. Convention Center has been closed since March, due to health ordinances. So the strong influx of visitors from around the globe to the Shaw and Mount Vernon neighborhoods did not materialize in the summertime. As the pandemic took hold, the restaurant faced additional challenges that led to delays in opening. As Vinod says, additional considerations needed to be made: new employee training went virtual. Design layouts and operational procedures were re-centered around social distancing and safety. Plus, with delivery & takeout becoming a larger part of the dining experience, rethinking and redesign became essential. “Despite these things, we felt that opening the second location was smoother overall as we now have proper procedures and operations in place,” says Vinod.

normal circumstances, he would expect higher sales at Tabla, but it has nonetheless done well. Recently, the restaurant moved to an all-day menu, creating additional dishes to bring in diners during the morning. Cheese-filled bread known as Khachapuris travel well and are perfect for morning business. Vinod of Rasa says he had frank discussions with investors and was able to renegotiate agreements to help survive during these tough times. The health crisis has made restaurant operators re-envision and revamp their openings. Preparing for business and solving problems amid unprecedented obstacles are skills that are currently defining DCarea operators’ survival. In addition, frank discussions with partners, co-owners, investors, employees and stakeholders strengthen operations and engage everyone involved.

Tabla, Washington’s second Georgian restaurant, also opened during the COVID-19 health crisis. Launching a second restaurant after Supra, which has received many accolades, has added challenges for the team. For example, Jonathan Nelms, co-owner of both restaurants, says two managers left prior to Tabla’s opening. After opening a fine-dining Georgian restaurant, the owners of Supra wanted to open the more casual Tabla. Large garage-style doors that open to the outside and bring in fresh air have been a godsend during the crisis. Customers have commented that they have eaten at Tabla even though they normally wouldn’t dine indoors, because of the fresh air circulated in by those doors. Both Tabla and Rasa have had to roll with the pandemic punches, get creative, and recalibrate during their openings. Nelms admits that under

Rasa opened August 1 in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Photo by Rasa.

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