I wanted so bad to keep our restaurant Wolf Down open. To keep feeding people. Hoping we could bring just a bit of joy when times are tough. I wanted to be there for our loyal fans who continue to be there for us. I needed to feel like I was doing something, anything to help. And if I’m being completely honest, I was desperate to keep busy… I fear boredom more than anything. And I bore super easily.
When many started closing their doors, we chose to stay open for pickup and delivery. We operated with a skeleton crew, just our core leadership team, to minimize the number of people we were in contact with. I made sure they all knew the choice was theirs and they could stay home if they weren’t comfortable coming in. They unanimously chose to work.
With dine-in shut down it was a totally different vibe inside. It felt eerily quiet at times, oddly peaceful in others. We missed seeing our regulars and their smiling faces, but smiled ourselves when we saw their names pop-up on our order screens. They wrote us touching messages in the comments sections and we wrote back and drew hearts on their takeout bags. Like pen pals. Strange times indeed.
It was a weird week to say the least. While in-store sales were down, delivery was up. Way up. We broke all our previous weeks sales on Uber Eats — in only 5 days. We sold over $2k of döner — just on Uber Eats — on our last day alone! The support meant everything to us.
In turn, we were determined to do our part to support. We resolved to help the heroic hospital workers who are putting themselves at great risk fighting COVID 19, by doing what we do best: feeding them. Figuring out the logistics was a bit tricky, so we decided to keep it super simple — show your medical ID and get a free döner. I ran it by Brooke and she was as pumped as I was, so we drafted this and, without a second thought, posted it on social media:
I remember saying to her “I hope they come”. I worried they wouldn’t believe us. Or that they wouldn’t be able to get to us. Or, what if they didn’t like it? I didn’t want to let them down. I suppressed those thoughts as I walked over to Wolf Down to start my shift. By the time I got there, someone had already called in. I was relieved. Minutes later a guy showed up, ID in-hand, in full scrubs, super thankful for his free döner. It made my day.
Over the next few days this happened a hundred times more. Every time their smiling faces brought even bigger smiles to ours. What was otherwise a pretty dark week became an experience we will never forget. The responses we got were incredibly heart warming. And it looks like people liked it! Phew!
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to feel like we are helping, even in such a small way. It’s moments like these that remind me why I do what I do. I’ve worked in many different industries, and never have I felt such a capacity to make people happy. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. Filling bellies fulfills me.
That’s why it killed me to have to hit pause last week. Determination as we were to keep going, the halt in our bread supply as our baker made the tough decision to shut down, forced our hand.
We contemplated staying open with just salads and rice bowls, but didn’t want to disappoint customers by giving them false hope seeing us open, just to realize they could not get their döner sandwich. Normally a restaurant cutting one menu item is not a big deal — but in our case, sandwiches account for 80% of sales. It’s just not viable for us.
We didn’t want to abandon our fans during these times though, so we got creative. Coming from the startup world, I was inspired by the idea of flash sales. It might not be sustainable to open every day without our top selling item, but what if we opened once a week featuring our other options? That way we could make sure you get your weekly fix of secret sauce, while we try to manage expectations to let you know we currently can only offer salads and rice bowls — an opportunity for you try our other döner offerings. That’s how we came up with Super Döner Bowl Saturdays.
We had our first Super Döner Bowl this week and it was aweesome. For one, the team was pumped to get back at it and make you guys some döners. We loved all your messages saying you’ve been waiting all week for this, and were excited when we saw your names pop-up on the order screens. We were happy to see new faces as nurses, ambulance drivers, and many more came to pick up their free döner, looking drained, but grateful and smiling. They thanked us, but really it us who thank them.
On Sunday we dropped off over a hundred salad bowls to CHEO. Next weekend we’ll start all over. And I can’t wait.
We’re in the business of feeding people — and we love what we do.