As we endure the current COVID-19 pandemic, a silver lining, or any scrap of good news, is something to be cherished.
Tuscan Kitchen and Market is one of numerous local food brands that, despite the impact of social distancing mandates, is continuing to support the Merrimack Valley. Since a forced closure in early March, each Tuscan Kitchen and Market location has offered takeout, curbside pickup and grocery delivery, and also hosted virtual cooking classes and designed take-home meal kits.
“It’s been really hard … but we’re not alone. There’s so many difficult stories as a result of this.” says Tuscan Kitchen owner and founder Joe Faro. “If we’re not going to be busy serving our guests, then we’re going to be busy serving the community.”
Since March, 500 Tuscan Brands employees have been furloughed as all of the restaurant locations shifted towards take-out dining, which only accounts for about 10% of their revenue.
In times such as these, Faro asserts that perseverance is key, and that it is important to adapt and be creative. “There is such a vibrant business culture in America, and our ability to be creative and reinvent ourselves is what makes us so special,” Faro says. “This new normal has pushed us to be better, and that ability to adapt is what makes this business environment so incredible, and we’re lucky to be able to do that.”
Adapting to a new business environment is not all they are doing. In addition to takeout and grocery deliveries for customers, Tuscan Brands is donating 50% (up from an initial 25%) of the profits from gift card sales to their employees. “I’m so proud of our Tuscan team and the way that they have banded together. They’re all working long hours and they’re getting it done,” Faro says. “We are so blessed to have an incredible, passionate group of people that believe in what we stand for.”
The company had also extended their reach to local first responders, delivering meals throughout Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. They have donated hundreds of meals to Lawrence General Hospital, Burlington’s Lahey Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital and Elliot Hospital in Manchester.
“We’re cranking meals to these folks that are working long hours in a really tough environment, putting themselves at risk,” Faro says. “They’re the heroes in all of this, we’re just making some pasta.”
As for the future, the Tuscan team remains ready to face the “new normal.” They are currently experimenting with the idea of an outdoor, pop-up restaurant with an outdoor tent, container bar, fire pits and festoon lights. While praising his staff and leadership team, Faro also affirms how much he misses his customers and plans to get everyone back together (at a safe distance) as soon as possible.
“The way to get through this is to take lemons and squeeze them into limoncello. We’re going to get through this by looking at things in a positive light and trying to say, ‘how can we help?’”
[Editor’s note: The interview was conducted in May, 2020, and may not reflect the current status of Tuscan Brands. Please see their website TuscanBrands.com for the most up-to-date information on hours and operations, as well as an announcement regarding the new Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar, opening July 13 in Newburyport.]