After the coronavirus changed business models overnight, chefs Abbey-Jo and Josh Eans had to quickly figure out how to reimagine not one but two very different restaurant concepts in Kansas City.
As the owners of Happy Gillis Café & Hangout and Columbus Park Ramen Shop, the couple had to write a new playbook for both their brunch restaurant and their nighttime noodle bar.
“Just like everyone else, we wanted a sustainable model for each of our restaurants that also gave us time during the week to home school our kids, while trying to stay sane,” Abbey-Jo says.
For Columbus Park Ramen Shop, the couple quickly moved to a curbside carryout model offering discounted $10 to $12 ramen bowls and $1 wing specials that initially kept traffic steady and their kitchen busy. But as warmer months approach, which are traditionally a tough time to sell hot ramen, they plan to close Columbus Park Ramen Shop temporarily and focus on Happy Gillis.
At Happy Gillis, the couple started simply by offering carryout brunch kits for pick up on Saturday and Sunday while they started working on building a new online store. Once that was live, they cancelled the brunch boxes to focus solely on online orders, which are only available for home delivery.
“I typically enter in all of the items for sale that week into our online store on Saturday or Sunday and turn it on by Monday,” explains Abbey-Jo. “Then customers can place their orders until Thursday afternoon when we close the store and start fulfilling the orders on Thursday evening, boxing everything up and delivering on Friday between 11am and 4pm.”
The restaurant delivers to homes all over Kansas City, and orders have nearly doubled from 20 the first week of business to 38 last week. “We are looking into establishing a delivery radius, but right now we are delivering to anyone who places an order,” says Abbey-Jo. “My mom takes one of our kids and heads up north, I take a kid and do everything from Columbus Park to Waldo, and Josh takes another kid and delivers everything south of the city.”
All of the food is made on-site at the Happy Gillis kitchen by only Abbey-Jo and Josh, who wear gloves and masks and follow all CDC-approved safety guidelines. Delivery is contact-free; orders are dropped off at the front door and customers then receive a text to let them know the order has been delivered.
Offerings change each week based on what is available from local farmers and wholesale food providers. In addition to offering three-course heat-and-eat meal kits that feed four and contain a salad, entrée and dessert, Happy Gillis is also offering essentials like bacon, Campo Lindo eggs, garden bags of vegetables or fruit for $15, baked goods like scones and cookies and even toilet paper.
“It was important for me that the dinner kits be something that represented the style and quality of food we are known for serving at Happy Gillis, that a family could either eat that night or put in the fridge to heat and eat another day – that’s why we do not deliver hot food,” Abbey-Jo says. “Everything you get will need to be reheated, and I provide the instructions to do that in every kit.”
Recent family-style dinner kits have included meatloaf and mashed potatoes, mac 'n' cheese, chicken salad and a taco dinner. This week, customers can look forward to tikka masala as well as a BLT sandwich meal kit that includes whole tomatoes, lettuce, cooked bacon, housemade herb aïoli and bread in addition to salad and a dessert. You can also stock up on quarts of homemade soup, fresh scones, cookies and other sweet treats from the website.
“Delivering these meal kits all over the city has really opened my eyes to how far-flung our Happy Gillis fans are in this city,” Abbey-Jo says. “Our family appreciates our fans and their support during normal restaurant operations, and right now, when things are far from normal, that support means even more to us. We appreciate the loyalty and the love.”
To place your online order, visit Happy Gillis' new online store.
Happy Gillis, 549 Gillis St., Columbus Park, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.471.3663, happygillis.com