I never imagined a global health crisis would alter every aspect of my life, including our prepared meals business that has been serving Tampa Bay for the past 17 years.
As we continue to recover and return to normal, it’s more important than ever to remember small businesses and show the community our support.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that over 110,000 restaurants closed for business temporarily or permanently by the end of 2020. Florida is officially reopened, but not all businesses have survived. According to the Global State of Small Business Report, closure rates among small businesses have fallen to 18% since the start of 2021. For the past year and a half, my husband Dan and I have made it our mission to not become part of those statistics.
Our business, Dinner Done!, was founded on the idea of creating healthy ready-to-cook dinners using fresh ingredients. The backbone of our original business model was in-person classes, and over the years we added a Grab & Go case with ready-to-cook items for pickup.
When the stay-at-home order was issued, we had to put an indefinite hold on our cooking classes, a customer favorite.
Facing lost revenue from our classes, we still viewed ourselves as fortunate.
In 2017, we had updated our website with online Grab & Go ordering, which now allowed us to pivot fully to curbside pickup and delivery. To manage this change, we rearranged the now empty kitchen class space so our team could work efficiently while safely distanced.
This enabled us to remain open, keep our team employed, and continue serving the community.
As we continued to evolve, we relied heavily on social media to quickly communicate with customers. Facebook and Instagram were (and still are) a major part of our success. We were able to post updates letting our customers know we were still in business and operating safely.
We used direct messaging to immediately answer customers’ questions and ran Facebook ads encouraging curbside pickup and adherence to CDC safety guidelines to help sustain and grow our customer base.
These efforts were instrumental in keeping our doors open this past year. And while Florida is reopened, our local businesses are still very much in recovery mode. Now more than ever, local restaurants need our support, or they will not survive.
I urge my fellow community members to consider eating local at least once a week.
Support your favorite family-owned or locally-owned eatery by sharing recommendations and posts about these businesses with your friends and family. Join a local foodie Facebook group and share your positive experience with members. Write a positive review for your favorite restaurants and businesses.
It’s more important than ever to support our local businesses and neighbors so we can all come out on the other side thriving.
Audra Nasser and her husband Dan founded Dinner Done! which has been perfecting fresh-frozen ready-to-cook meals since 2004.