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RibCrib's Essentials service allows the purchase of grocery staples.
Photo provided by RibCrib
RibCrib's Essentials service allows the purchase of grocery staples.

Blog: Now that's a pivot

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Companies are being forced to get creative amid the coronavirus pandemic.

We've seen it with Spring Branch Kombucha, which moved up production of its line of cans, and printing company nPrint Graphix, which shifted into personal protective equipment manufacturing, to name a couple examples in recent Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Restaurant chain RibCrib yesterday announced the launch of Essentials, a service through which customers can buy high-demand grocery items including toilet paper, milk, eggs, vegetables and meat. The items are available for curbside pickup and as to-go orders at the company's 45 restaurants, including its two locations in Springfield.

“As our customers are becoming increasingly worried about crowded grocery stores and limited choices on the shelves, it can be stressful when it comes to putting good food on your table – and we knew that RibCrib could help,” said Garrett Mills, president and CEO of Tulsa-based RibCrib, in a news release.

It may be a preferred option in place of Walmart, for example, where social distancing measures are keeping customers physically separated and employees wear masks as they make sure stores aren't overcrowded. It has the feeling of a third-world country, and it's a bit spooky. Walmart's curbside pickup service is active, though items are in shorter supply and wait times are longer than usual.

Time will tell how long RibCrib can keep its supplies intact.

But it's a heck of a pivot for a barbecue restaurant. Yes, you can now order a side of toilet paper with your ribs. But the ribs aren’t even a requirement.

"We're able to bypass the supply chain bottlenecks afflicting major retailers and it’s a model we can completely control. We’re selling the items we usually sell, just in a different form," Mills added in the release. "Everything purchased, whether groceries or from our regular menu, helps keep our people employed at a time when they need it the most.”

Pivots are happening across the country by necessity, as stay-at-home and social distancing orders impact businesses' livelihoods.

Hy-Vee Inc. this morning announced free full-serving fueling will be offered at its 165 convenience stores in eight states. Customers can receive a fill-up, as well as food and other items, all without leaving their vehicles, according to a news release.

At the end of the day, how about catching up with your friends at the neighborhood brewery? That's possible through Virtual Taproom, a service that allows people to teleconference over a beer.

In an emailed pitch, co-founder Andrew Coplon said the service provides an alternative to videoconference apps such as Zoom.

"Do you really want to have a drink at the same place you have meetings?" he said in the email.

Through the service, you can take a virtual seat at your favorite brewery and talk with other craft beer lovers. No local breweries are currently using the service, but that might change, especially if the coronavirus pandemic extends stay-at-home orders. Several breweries already have signed up.

Look for more companies to come up with solutions to keep cash flowing during the outbreak. And, when the pandemic has passed, expect some of these services to stick around. The world will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis a different place, and we all can impact what it will look like post-pandemic.

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