‘They said to dance, so we danced’
Three months after opening their Latin-Mediterranean bistro Piripi, named for the Spanish word for “tipsy,” Victoria and Hugo Meyer were dizzy with mandates and pivots. Servers became delivery drivers; a parking lot became the dining room; and suddenly they were packing up high-end scallop dinners with free champagne in to go containers—something they never wanted to do.
“They wanted us to dance, so we danced,” says Victoria Meyer, co-owner of the 4,000 square foot concept in Erie, Colo. Along with husband and chef Hugo Meyer, the duo kicked off a “Keep your Spirits Up” campaign with free champaign and did what they needed to do to survive.
“We protected everyone’s jobs. We made sure they had work. And, when we were pushed up against the wall, we agreed to deliver entrees we never would have thought would be appropriate for delivery. And did everything we could think of to make a good impression with our patrons.”
In the span of just three months, the Meyers successfully implemented a variety of new ideas that won the both the hearts and mouths of their customers. And they were doubly rewarded with loyalty and a booming business.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Victoria Meyer discusses the up and down of opening a restaurant in the pandemic age.
BB: How did the closure affect Piripi?
VM: We were fortunate that when we opened in August 2020 we were able to have full capacity up until Thanksgiving. At which point, we were forced to close our indoor and pivot to takeout. Takeout was something my husband never wanted to do. We took our servers and made them delivery drivers. And we took our dining room the in the building we own and moved the entire business into a tent in the parking lot. And we asked our servers to go go down there. We put up fireplaces, Christmas trees and offered music. They wanted us to dance, so we danced.
BB: How did you convert so quickly to delivery?
VM: When we felt pushed up against the wall, we decided to try delivery. We put our servers under the umbrella of our commercial insurance so they could operate vehicles and deliver our meals.
Our customers ordered unbelievable amounts of food, from $50 steaks to calamari and scallops. We never thought we could package something like scallops to go, but we did. As a way of showing our appreciation, we doubled the quantity of appetizers and small plates and gave price breaks where we could.
And because we were new and wanted to make a good impression on people, we made a campaign called Keep Your Spirits Up and delivered small bottles of free champagne. We felt like we needed something for our customers to remember us by, because we were brand new and didn’t have a past or history with them.
BB: When did you reopen and how did it go?
VM: We reopened the first week of January. We brought our dining room back indoors and got rid of our tent. And the people continued to come. But we didn’t really see an uptick until everyone started getting vaccinated. Then it was a tidal wave! We managed to keep up our delivery service up until recently, when we ended it due to staffing issues. But we’re keeping our curbside because it had had a positive response.
BB: And the Boxerbrand menus have worked out for you?
VM: There was a point during all this that reusable menus were not popular in Colorado. But we stood by our menus and just wiped those them and sanitized them, and I have to tell you that our customers just adored them. Though we were encouraged to switch to a QR code so that our customers could use their phones to look at our menu, our customers didn’t want to. And they were just in awe of holding a menu. There’s just something so tactile and enjoyable about holding one, and they worked out great. This is our third restaurant, and we’ve used Boxerbrand at all three. We used to have a restaurant in the Caribbean, and even outside, exposed to sun and water, those menus withstood it.
BB: What is your philosophy for handling difficult days?
VM: We had a couple days where things were pretty tough. I now believe that adversity strengthens our character, and we try to look at every challenge to be met as an opportunity. — Piripi uses Boxerbrand’s Slenders (brushed titanium) and Iridescents (powder-coat bronze) menu covers in their table presentation. Thank you!