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Perch hosts virtual Richmond dinner party

Posted at 8:41 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 08:41:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- While many Richmond restaurants have had to pivot to takeout to survive COVID-19 restrictions, Perch is taking things to the next level. The Scott's Addiction restaurant is hosting its first virtual dinner party Thursday night.

Chef Mike Ledesma and Andy Hannas of Potter’s Cider teamed up to create a three-course meal paired with cider. Tickets are available here.

Perch bar manager Beth Dixon quickly planned and organized the event. She told Eat It, Virginia! co-host Robey Martin more about what guests can expect, plus they discussed what restaurant life has been like to COVID-19 came to town.

Robey Martin
Are you spending a lot of time at Perch right now?

Beth Dixon
Yeah, I'm here at least like 40 hours a week and then I work from home some as well just like doing online stuff and I do a lot for the website here.

And as we've adapted into a new business model, my role has changed a lot as well because obviously not really managing a bar every day.

Robey Martin
So what have you guys done to adapt? How do you go from an 160-seat restaurant to all delivery and to-go?

Beth Dixon
It was really hard. We started on Friday. Let's see. Everything shut down. What was that like March? I don't know, like 15th? All the days are blur.

Robey Martin
It was a year ago that everything shut down.

Beth Dixon
Humor is the only thing keeping me going through this.

I guess it was March 16 when everyone really shut down. That was the Monday. That Friday and Saturday before, Mike was like, we got to start doing to-go packages. So we did.

We made up these two packages to go for Friday, Saturday, Sunday night. You know, before everyone had like, shut down shut down.

There was like a silver and a platinum. One's like a $50 package and you get a choice starter, entree, dessert and a cheaper bottle of wine. Then the platinum one, you get better options. There's like steak and then a nicer bottle of wine.

So we had started to do those a couple of days before we shut down and then we just had to like flip into all sorts of different stuff. We had to expand.

We weren't just going to do those packages.

So we've been doing like a grab-and -go menu and take and bake.

And then Mike had this brilliant idea to do these big drops to like local neighborhoods. So we're putting together family-style packages and wine and dinner pairings for like Hallsley and Tarrington and trying to get into Brandermill.

We'll come and deliver a big drop for multi families. Low contact, no contact as much as possible. That's been really helpful. Just every day is a new adventure and trying to be creative and making sure that we're advertising all the options we have.

Robey Martin
How are your employees? What is going on with them?

Beth Dixon
Generally, everyone's in really good spirits.

I think most of them are really happy to be working, because it's keeping them from sitting at home. No one has expressed a lot of concern about coming to work or anything.

We're taking, of course, a ton of precautions. I get here and I wipe down my computer, my phone, my keys, I spray my purse.

The guys get in, they wipe down everything as soon as they get in and everyone's washing their hands as soon as they walk in the door. We're trying to practice safe distance from each other in the building as well.

I have been bringing puzzles in. That's been really fun and relaxing for everybody, so yeah, just doing the best we can.

Robey Martin
So what is going on that we can get involved in as the dining public, because we still have to eat, and would help you guys.

Beth Dixon
Continuing to get takeout as much as possible.

Doing the virtual dinner. These virtual dinners, it's gonna be awesome. I think it's a good way for people to socialize.

I did a happy hour with a bunch of like USBG and bartender people with Horace from Dickel, and we just got trashed on the internet together. And it was really fun and it was exactly what I needed. And that was the first hangover I've had in a really long time, but is fun.

Robey Martin
And you didn't have to drive, which I hope maybe these virtual happy hours kind of continue after this is over.

I mean, not all the way but you understand. Maybe you go out for two drinks, and then you come home and you reach out.

Beth Dixon
Yeah, it was fun. It was very fun.

So I think just continuing to do that and continuing to pick up takeout and buy these packages. Gift cards are great, but I worry about that. I don't know. I don't know if you have thoughts on that. But I feel like gift cards are tricky because then when you reopen, all these people are going to just come spend their gift cards and it's deferred payment.

So I mean, they're great and I continue to push them, but I think having a continuing source of revenue more, like I don't know how much Mike wants to say we're definitely not making money. But we are able to keep like 80% of our staff. So we've had very few layoffs. We pretty much have everyone on a salary right now. And that's what doing takeout is, is making it so we can keep our staff.

Robey Martin
Gift cards are funny for me. I might be the best gift card buyer and I'm just going to toot my own horn here because I forget that I have them.

I'll buy one and then it'll just be it's just essentially money to you guys because I don't even know where they go.

They go into some gift card hole in my house that we never can find them.

Beth Dixon
So you're never going to spend them? You're like a perfect gift card buyer.

Robey Martin
I'm relatively certain that we bought some and I think they're mostly online right now. But I've had one for Lemaire for, I can't even tell you how long. I don't know where it is.

Beth Dixon
You might be able to get them to look it up for you.

Maybe not right now, or maybe right now is the best time because they have not as much stuff going on.

They'll have time to research where your gift card went.

Robey Martin
No, I just like knowing that I could eat there. Like that's the background in my head is like, I could go.

So virtual dinner, let's talk about what that entails.

Beth Dixon

Okay, so Andy, Hannah's a very dear friend of mine, who we've known each other for, I don't know, like, since CanCan days, so like a million years ago, like it's been like 15 years. But he's the cider maker at Potter's Cider.

He came at me with this idea that he wanted to do a virtual dinner and I thought it was brilliant.

He came to me Saturday and I started putting everything together on Sunday and I got everything live yesterday, so we moved really fast and the dinners on Thursday.

I'm not trying to sell 20 to 40 tickets like you typically would do with one of these. So I'm okay with sort of doing a last minute because I'm not trying to sell a million tickets.

I's a package deal. And I really wanted to do it as a package deal. Because, I wanted to do more cider and like split cider and I didn't want to make the tickets super expensive because I know a lot of people are trying to save money right now because everyone's worried about the economy.

So, package deal for two people. It doesn't have to be your significant other, it could be a roommate or, you know, whoever else you're stuck at home with essentially.

I'm really excited about three courses.

Three ciders, one of them's like the 750 milliliters, so you can drink that the whole dinner and then taste the other fun ones while you're cruising in to the rest of the dinner.

Robey Martin
So will the perspective virtual dinner guests get access to talk to you, Mike and Andy?

Yes, so we're definitely doing Mike and Andy on Instagram Live. I think I'm going to also have a Zoom so that the people that bought tickets have a little bit more more interaction, but we're going to do the whole thing live on our feed.

I think it'll be a way for everyone to kind of see how this is going to operate. A lot of restaurants maybe couldn't take this idea and run with it. I'm happy for us, I think to be the first one in Richmond to do this.

I think it's going to be a great way for us to all continue to maybe have a little revenue, pay the electricity bill, pay for the water and, you know, that's what, it's not about making money. It's about just sustaining right now.

Robey Martin
Absolutely. And I think the being able to eat with a bunch of people you do or do not know, being able to talk about the ciders and the foods and how they go together from the comfort of your own home.

Beth Dixon
Think about all these multi-course dinners you go to where you like feel really full and wish that you'd worn your stretchy pants and you can like unbutton and like, be comfortable and no one's gonna know.

Robey Martin
Yeah, well, dude, I can't wait for the virtual dinner.

Beth Dixon
I'm excited. Thank you.