How the Council Cafe opened a successful restaurant at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic
Erika Emeruwa, co-owner of The Council Cafe in New York, comes from a long line of passionate home chefs and bakers, which has inspired her lifelong goal of opening a restaurant. “Food has just been something that I love.” Emeruwa said, “It brings people together. I can’t describe the pure joy I experience when people enjoy the food you prepare.”
Erika and her partner opened the Council Cafe in February 2020 with a mission to feed the community comfort food with their own twist. “In this area–there weren’t a lot of healthy food alternatives, and we wanted to provide the neighborhood with healthier food options.”
“We opened at a really interesting time, right before the pandemic hit in late February–early March,” said Emeruwa. As a brand new restaurant opening at the peak of COVID-19 restrictions, Erika knew she had to adapt her restaurant business model to bring in additional revenue through delivery and takeout orders.
Driving brand awareness with the Grubhub Marketplace
When Erika and her partner opened The Council Cafe, she originally planned to build her customer base through foot traffic. She specifically chose the Council Cafe’s location to capture new customers heading to the subway entrance or walking through the area, “We believed customers would find us by walking by,” Said Erika.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed her strategy overnight. In early March, when New York shut down, Erika turned to the Grubhub Marketplace to build awareness for her restaurant and drive additional revenue through delivery and takeout.
Being on Grubhub gave us credibility with potential customers.
Erika Emeruwa, The Council Cafe
“As a new business, we knew we needed an awareness driver to tell people we were here,” Emeruwa said. “Grubhub allowed us to get in front of customers that didn’t know us.”
Since joining the Grubhub Marketplace, The Council Cafe has seen month-to-month growth in sales.
Building community safely with special events and takeout and delivery orders
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Erika and her partner have successfully built The Council Cafe into a community pillar. From providing the neighborhood with healthier dining options to transforming the cafe’s storefront into a community market featuring local dry goods, artwork, and locally baked bread from Naira Bread, the building community is a cornerstone of The Council Cafe.
The Council Cafe also hosts outdoor pop-up dinners in collaboration with other local businesses called Iya Eba. These outdoor pop-up dinners are inspired by Nigerian street food and offer the neighborhood an opportunity to dine outdoors and support local businesses safely.
Looking toward the future
According to Erika, trust and credibility are critical to any new restaurant or business. “I think by being on Grubhub, we were able to build credibility with a new customer base at a time when it was difficult to reach people due to COVID-19 restrictions.”
Looking toward the future, Erika and her partner plan to build The Council Cafe’s presence in the neighborhood, innovate her menu, and adapt The Council Cafe’s business model to reach new customers as the world adjusts to a Post-COVID-19 environment. “With the residual psychological impact of the pandemic, we are going to have to patient and continue to figure out safe and exciting ways to give customers a reason to dine with us,” she said.
Takeout is here to stay and we will continue to leverage it as a key marketing tool.
Erika Emeruwa, The Council Cafe
The pandemic forced many restaurants to adapt their business models to reach customers through takeout and delivery. Erika plans to continue building The Council Cafe’s takeout and delivery capabilities.
The Council Cafe is a story of resilience, adaptation and the power of community. Despite the unprecedented challenge of opening a new restaurant business during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erika did not give up her mission to serve the Bed Stuy neighborhood with comforting health-forward classics. Instead, she adapted her business model by partnering with Grubhub to reach new customers and drive takeout and delivery orders to her restaurant.
Ready to reach new customers and grow your restaurant business? Get started with Grubhub today and boost your revenue with takeout and delivery sales.
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