On July 31, 2020, Trust20 interviewed Lyle Richardson, Chief Operating Officer of A. Marshall Hospitality Group, a Trust20 participating partner, in Tennessee to talk about how their restaurants have pivoted during the COVID-19 crisis.
Tell us about A. Marshall Hospitality and your restaurants.
We’re a family owned and operated restaurant group with nine full-service restaurants and four unique concepts. Puckett’s is our flagship concept with six operating locations across Middle and East Tennessee, serving a classic, Southern breakfast, cherry smoked BBQ, and good old-fashioned comfort food that really showcases the essence of Southern hospitality.
We also own have Americana Taphouse, a Southern, family-friendly restaurant which featuringes great craft beers from across the U.S. and a menu with a modern take on American classics like burgers and pot roast.
Scout’s Pub serves elevated American fare - very colorful dishes - with fresh and seasonal ingredients in an upscale, neighborhood pub atmosphere, and Deacon’s New South is a modern, Southern e restaurant steakhouse with a sommelier-curated beverage program in downtown Nashville. At Deacon’s, we specialize in dry-aged meats, aging 21-60 days, and house made charcuterie. Deacon’s is home to the largest dry aging room in the Southeast. dry-age all of the meat on site and have the largest dry-aging room in the Southeast.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business?
We’re on the full-service spectrum of the restaurant industryfood service, and as such, we are feeling the residual effects of COVID due to limited seating capacities, customer hesitancy, etc., as are restaurants across the country.
When communities started closing down in mid-March, we shifted our focus to how we can still serve our customers safely with to-go and delivery business. The infrastructure in our restaurants was already set up for to-go ordering, and we took it to the next level.
We were already in the early stages of implementing working on a Puckett’s To Go Pack family meal bundle, but we expedited the process in order to take care of our customers from where they were versus having our customers come to us. Our family pack can feed a group of four to six, and can be customized to meet the needs of our customers.
We also sent out our “Trolley Parton” food truck to different neighborhoods each day, focusing on the community’s needs and bringing food to our customers. We would take our family meal bundles to different neighborhoods and work with local HOA’s to promote to their residents.
We were blessed to already have the support of the community.
Once we had gained some momentum, we had communities requesting Trolley Parton to come to their area. We were able to take advantage of customers’ attention in the beginning, and then it started to grow organically from there. We are still.
Tell us about your health and safety guidelines and how those have shifted since the crisis?
We already follow very strict safety and sanitation guidelines, so we mainly needed to fine-tune some of these protocols. I was tasked with taking what we already did and determining what enhancements our restaurants needed.
When customers walk in the door, they have to notice the clean. Our restaurants have a “noticeably clean” standard.
We implemented new practices including glove use, touchless QR code and single-use menus, single-serve condiments, silverware rolled and sealed for service, and replacing (not refilling) cups.
A. Marshall was one of the first restaurant groups to re-open in our area and one of the first to use QR code menus, which garnered significant national and even international attention.
Always ask yourself, “What am I doing differently to make my guests feel safe?”
We wipe down tables in between guests like we used to, but now we spray the table and chairs, let it sit and then come back and wipe it all down. Our teams also sanitize other high-touch surfaces every hour. customers pay attention to these little changes.
The old-school cleanliness standard used to be the bathroom. We had to take that mentality and apply it to the dining room. Our team tracks social media trends, and like many others, we have noticed the word “clean” has jumped up in restaurant reviews. Service used to be the buzzword, but now it’s clean.
Clean is the new service for restaurants.
What sort of changes has your restaurant made that you think are going to stick in the “new normal”?
I think QR code menus are going to stick. Older age groups still may want single-use menus, but 70% of customers are using QR codes over paper menus.
I also think there will be increased awareness of sanitation of high-touch areas like doors, as well as physical space changes to the facility. For example, restaurants may trend more toward swing doors over open kitchens. Open kitchens affect the perception of a customer who might not understand the food process (i.e., gloves can be worse than bare hands in kitchen preparation and when dealing with cross-contamination).
How has Trust20 helped your business?
We had already done so many enhancements in our restaurants, so what I really liked is how Trust20 validated the certification process of what we were already doing.
Trust20 means the restaurants are safe, they’re doing it right, and they’re certified.
I like the fact that someone is putting an effort into a certification process in order to help restaurants gain diner confidence.
A. Marshall Hospitality is a Middle Tennessee-based company, comprised of nine family-owned restaurant and hospitality businesses in Middle and East Tennessee, including six Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant locations, Scout’s Pub, Deacon’s New South, and Americana Taphouse. Each concept focuses on providing friends new and old with home-cooked food and Southern hospitality, the Marshall way.
Interested in what a restaurant group actually consists of? Are you considering launching a restaurant group of your own? Read through Back of House's Guide to Restaurant Groups and learn all about this popular format of restaurant ownership.
Trust20 is the new standard of restaurant safety and diner comfort, based on 20 tactics by health and safety experts. Supported by Gordon Food Service and General Mills, Trust20 provides an independently verified certification of restaurant practices, training, and other resources to help restaurants create safe, healthy, and welcome spaces for diners. www.trust20.co, @Trust20USA