in the Mix Journals Volume 1

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Journals In this Issue

How to Weather an Industry-Wide Crisis: Keep Calm and Stick Together By Heather Dratler, VP of Marketing and Brand Integrity, SAGE Restaurant Concepts

Volume 1

Summer 2014 •


How to Weather an Industry-Wide Crisis: Keep Calm and Stick Together By Heather Dratler, VP of Marketing and Brand Integrity, SAGE Restaurant Concepts

As the full impact of COVID-19 quickly swept up restaurants across the nation, many began asking the question, “What happens now?” It’s no secret that the restaurant industry is hurting. According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry has lost more than 3 million jobs and $25 billion in sales since March 1. As more and more independent locations shutter and others turn to modified business models to survive, the question of what happens now feels more significant than ever. For one restaurant company, the answer was clear: Keep calm and stick together. Sage Restaurant Concepts, operator of 20 independent restaurant, bar and coffeeshop locations across the country, immediately sprang to action when the first effects of the COVID-19 crisis started to hit the industry. The group quickly launched a campaign called “Keep Calm and Carry Out,” designed to support both the restaurant community and those in our communities most affected by COVID-19. The idea was simple: $1 from every carry out order at each participating restaurant would be donated to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. 2

Summer 2014 •



What began as a company-wide initiative quickly turned into a call to action for other like-minded restaurants to join – and they did. According to the company, soon after launch they had more than 123 restaurant partners (though that number has dwindled to about 70 as operators have had to make the difficult decision to suspend operations). “We’ve always believed in supporting our communities,” says Heather Dratler, Sage Restaurant Concepts’ Vice President of Marketing and Brand Integrity. “When it became clear that our industry was facing an

are partners as far away as Nashville, Tennessee and Alexandria, Virginia. Two weeks after the original campaign launched, the team at Sage Restaurant Concepts realized their efforts needed to go further. With millions in the hospitality industry facing unemployment, including 3,500 furloughed associates from SRC’s parent company Sage Hospitality Group alone, the team wanted to do more to help. Sage Hospitality Group set up an Associate Relief Fund to benefit its furloughed associates, with proceeds used to set up food and essentials pantries across the country

unprecedented situation, we knew it wasn’t enough to promote our own business. We wanted to lift up the entire industry, and lift up our communities in the process. We’re all in this together.” Partners in the campaign have ranged from mom-and-pop coffee shops, like the Generous Coffee Shop in Golden, Colorado, to lauded Denverarea institutions, like Chef Jennifer Jasinski’s Rioja, Bridge and Tunnel Restaurant Group’s Rosenberg’s Bagels, and Steuben’s Uptown. While largely concentrated in Denver, where Sage Restaurant Concepts is based, there

for those associates and their families. And Sage Restaurant Concepts got to work extending their “Keep Calm” campaign to a weekly social media series. Featuring catchy names like “Keep Calm and Cook On,” and “Keep Calm and Wine Down,” each Tuesday the series features restaurant and beverage talent from the Sage Restaurant Concepts network, taking viewers behind the scenes for tips, tricks, hacks, expert discussions, live tastings and other engaging restaurantrelated content. Airing live at 6 p.m.

Summer 2014 •


MDT on the @sagerestaurantconcepts Instagram channel, the series is a way for the company to remain engaged with its guests while raising awareness and soliciting voluntary donations for the Associate Relief Fund. “We’ve been fortunate to have outstanding relationships with our supplier partners,” says Brandon Wise, Sage Restaurant Concepts’ Vice President of Beverage. “We were able to work with our suppliers to create educational content that we’ll use as training materials down the line, but that can double as social media series content now. To add legitimacy and authenticity, we are using furloughed talent to appear in these episodes.” As of this writing, the fund has raised more than $175,000 to set up food and essential pantries nationwide. Sponsor partners include Constellation Brands, Campari, Trinchero and Bootheel 7 Ranch, with more signing on each day. The company also secured its Director of Culinary Operations for Departure Restaurant in Portland, Oregon – current Top Chef All Stars contestant Chef Gregory Gourdet – to produce episodes for its series and draw more attention to the cause. The icing on the cake? Due to the efforts of the “Keep Calm” campaign, the company has been able to keep its doors open at one of its restaurants, Kachina Cantina in Denver. With a functional kitchen, the group was able to join forces with the Colorado Restaurant Response, committing to produce 500 meals per day


for food-insecure people in the state of Colorado. In turn, the company was able to hire back several furloughed associates to prepare the meals. “At the end of the day, we really are all in this together,” says Dratler. “Our efforts have come full circle. With the help of the restaurant community, our suppliers and partners that have donated everything from free outdoor advertising space to ground beef, we’ve been able to help both the most vulnerable in our community and our own Sage family.” Heather Dratler’s advice for other companies weathering the storm?

Don’t go it alone. Reach out to your community, to your partners. We are stronger together than we are alone. We won’t save restaurants by focusing on every man for himself. We’ll beat this together.”

Summer 2014 •


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