True North adapts to the “new normal”
Anastasia E. Lennon
WEYMOUTH – On May 22, the modern American restaurant True North Kitchen and Bar reopened after being closed since March 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike some other restaurants, True North has remained closed, even for take-out, so owners can quarantine together and hang out with their 18-month-old granddaughter.
“What was going on was so unknown. There was panic in people’s eyes and I didn’t want to endanger my people,” said owner Joe Campbell, who runs the restaurant with his wife Janet.
Their two children also work in the restaurant, one of whom is pregnant and the other, Ben, who is the chef.
During those two months, Campbell said he took the time to reflect on how the industry will inevitably change and how True North can adapt to this “new normal”.
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“I spent that time figuring out different ways to improve the business. From a technology perspective, with a new website that offered online orders and payments. I had to watch dozens of different webinars on other things that could help the business, like the best loan programs and PPE loans, ”he said.
During this time, her son did a lot of recipe testing and cooked “all day, every day” in his home kitchen. One week it was donuts, another it was bagels.
“People have asked me how long I was in quarantine. I was in quarantine for 10 pounds,” Campbell said jokingly. “That’s what I won.”
When takeout reopens in May, Campbell says a lot has changed, not only in the way they operate, but also in the way he envisions future restaurant efforts.
At the moment, he is the only one in his family to come to work. Back home, he quarantines himself in a separate part of the house and enjoys a glass of wine with his wife on the porch.
Typically, take-out was 10% of their business, but now it’s 50%, although indoor and outdoor dining is allowed. As a result, Campbell began looking to improve presentation in portable containers, as well as more environmentally friendly packaging.
For outdoor dining, they created a space in the rear parking lot under a tent with new furniture, rugs, lighting and plants.
“It’s a little oasis on Route 3A, where the cars go by but you don’t even know they’re there from the back of the building,” he said.
The veteran restaurateur has also started to reconsider its future plans. What was once another restaurant could instead be a limited service restaurant, where people take the food and go.
Campbell says counter service businesses have performed well during the pandemic because they have built social distancing into their model.
“People are reluctant to expose themselves, especially now that other parts of the country are exploding,” he said.
Since reopening, True North has stopped offering a weekend breakfast and brunch service, doing about 60% of the business they previously did, Campbell said. He understands why people are still hesitant to dine out and appreciates those who come in support, whether it’s take-out or dining out.
“When we reopened, it was like seeing a lost friend walk through the door. They were excited about us, but also their chicken parmesan or their carrot cake,” he said with a laugh.
Campbell says True North is perhaps best known for their Mongolian chicken fillets, served with coconut crème fraîche, grilled pineapple, and a sweet and spicy sauce.
“Even though we are a small neighborhood restaurant, everything is done very carefully, everything from scratch,” he said. “I think that’s what we’re known for. The care taken in every dish.”
He is happy to be up and running again and ready to adapt for the sequel, something he has always had to do in his nearly five decades in the industry.
“I don’t think things are really getting back to normal. People’s habits have changed, society has changed. There are things we all have to adapt to in order to survive. It always has been, but even more so now. “
If you are going to …
What: True North Kitchen and Bar
Or: 159 Bridge Street, Route 3A, Weymouth
When: 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday; 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Contact: 339-201-7841; truenorthkitchenandbar.com