Restaurant News: MADE Restaurant on Responding to the Pandemic
Written by Jimmy Geurts for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Ever since the start of the pandemic, downtown Sarasota restaurant Made has looked to adapt and be creative.Made, which is an acronym for Modern American Delicious Eats and earned a national television spotlight on Travel Channel's "Food Paradise" for its inventive takes on comfort food, switched to a to-go system when Florida restaurants were ordered closed except for takeout and delivery.
Now open for dine-in under current state guidelines, while still offering takeout, Made updates its menu every few days. It also continues to showcase craft cocktails, including recently offering a drink menu inspired by the music of rapper Bryce Vine.
In a June 4 interview, executive chef and owner Mark D. Woodruff discussed how the pandemic has affected the restaurant.
What's your current setup for dine-in like, and how have customers responded so far?
Well, indoors we can only seat about 30, 35 people because we're still at 50 percent. We are able to seat roughly 30-35 outdoors on our patio as long as they're socially distanced, so that helps a lot. It's gone well. They're happy to see us, because so many places weren't following guidelines, so we're getting a lot of positive feedback. Everybody's really appreciative of the sanitation and things that we're actually doing here, and not just packing the place full of people. They're happy to see us doing it the right way.
What are you offering in terms of takeout, delivery, etc.?
Well, I'm changing my menu every three days and we are doing the single-use menus, so it's hard to update the website daily. So I'm kind of leaning on our social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram and whatnot — to get those out and to keep people informed. So basically when people call for takeout, we ask them first, "Have you seen our menus posted?" And most of our regulars have gotten to know our system now, so it's been pretty positive. We have one menu for dine-in and carryout. We're not (doing delivery); we were at the beginning, but then it just died out and we stopped doing it.
What has it been like changing your menu so often?
It's actually been really great because it's let me spread my wings a little bit more. If you've seen beef prices lately, a lot of people can't even find ground beef or things like that. So I'm able to spread my chef wings and look outside the box, use more local sustainable products that not many other people might use. So it really helps me stay creative, stay focused and keep it fresh.
What are you doing in terms of your craft cocktail menu?
We kind of pride ourselves on our craft cocktails and we've got a really great bar director here. So like right now, we're doing a music-themed cocktail menu by this artist whose name is Bryce Vine. Myself and my business partner and the bar manager, we were literally here alone the entire time through the pandemic doing the takeout ourselves. So we got to know his music pretty well, so we were happy with that.
Beyond the social distancing measures, what are you doing in terms of sanitizing and safety?
We're sanitizing every table and chair after somebody leaves, the single-use menus, all front of house and back of the house staff is masked up and gloved up. I would like to use the touchless menu system, but it's based off your website, and we're changing our menu so frequently that we can't keep our website updated. So it makes it difficult. But we are using the single-use menus, like I said.
What does your staff look like now, and if business ramps up, would you consider bringing back more employees or adding more hours?
Well, I had 33 employees when this happened, I now have 12. Some of them have decided not to come back: one, because of unemployment, two, because of they're scared of the virus. But the ones that got stuck in limbo with unemployment and never got it and the ones that never filed for it, they came right back to work. I will definitely add more hours, I will definitely add more employees.
What is staff morale like?
Morale's been great. As soon as we were able to let customers back in, we're lucky enough to have a great local base clientele and they took very good care of us, they took very good care of the staff. And the ones that are working right now are the ones that helped us work through this whole thing while we were only doing takeout, so everyone's morale is pretty good.
Did you apply for the Paycheck Protection Program loan, and if so, did you receive it?
Yes, we did. Yes and yes. Thank God, because we would not be around right now if we didn't get it.
Is there anything else about the pandemic and the challenge of tackling it you wanted to mention?
We're just staying to stay ahead of the curve and we're trying to just be on top of it. I get daily comments on how powerful our social media presence was throughout the whole thing, and how everybody really, really appreciated it. So, so far, so good.
Made Restaurant (1990 Main St. #112, Sarasota; 941-953-2900) is open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 5-10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch Sunday. For more information, visit facebook.com/madesarasota, instagram.com/made_srq or maderestaurant.com.
Some of the most popular menu items:
• The Double Dipped Fried Chicken features a buttermilk and Boyland Sauce Co. brine and hot-n-honey crust, served with bacon and beer-braised collard greens.
• The "Four" Meatloaf is made with four different types of meat including ground brisket, billionaire bacon, short rib and beef blend, using Honey Nut Cheerios instead of breadcrumbs to make it gluten-free.
• Woodruff said Made's scallops, cast iron-seared and served with corn "risotto style," are a local favorite.
• Though Made's mac-and-cheese only appears on the menu "from time to time" now, Woodruff said, the most popular is the Pork on Pork on Pork, made with roasted pork shoulder, billionaire bacon, chorizo, Parmesan and gruyere.
Restaurants are now permitted to reopen with 50% indoor capacity and outdoor seating following recommended social distancing of at least six feet. Bars can also open at 50% indoor capacity with recommended social distancing, read the guidelines posted by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. There's no limit on capacity for outdoor seating as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. Gov. Ron DeSantis' Phase 2 reopening executive order also allows for restaurants to serve at the bar with social distancing. The governor's executive order does not mandate the use of masks. However, the FRLA recommends customers, employees and employers consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for employers responding to COVID-19.