D’Amico & Partners Slims Operations to Move Forward
D’Amico Catering Executive Chef Josh Brown prepares emergency meals for Loaves & Fishes.

D’Amico & Partners Slims Operations to Move Forward

“This crisis is forcing us to run a bit leaner, and that is the perfect incubator for new solutions and ideas,” says co-owner Larry D’Amico.

D’Amico may be one of the recognizable names in Twin Cities dining and catering, but that doesn’t make the restaurant developer and management company immune from Covid-19’s effects.

The D’Amico & Partners portfolio includes D’Amico Catering as well as the fast casual D’amico & Sons chain in the Twin Cities and Naples, along with Bushel & Peck café at Mill City Museum, Campiello, and Café & Bar Lurcat. From mandatory restaurant closures to a ban on events, the business ground to a near halt when the pandemic hit.

Now, as some of its restaurants begin to open up, co-owner Larry D’Amico says the company has used the downtime to make improvements, to slim down operations for better quality-control, and to serve the community in new ways.

Q | How has your work changed or been disrupted by coronavirus?

Larry D’Amico | Absolutely it’s changed. All of our Minnesota restaurants and cafes were closed for some time. Many still are. Our catering

Larry D’Amico

division was halted because events couldn’t take place. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done—creating new menus, setting up new safety parameters, checking in with our staff who are not back to work yet, and meeting with our landlords and suppliers, for example. So, yes, work has been disrupted, but there are a lot of things to do because of that. We must look forward.

Q | Anything you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work or help your community?

A | We’ve been able to shift our D’Amico & Sons location in Golden Valley to a take-out only operation. The Brooklyn [Park] restaurant at the Edinburgh USA golf course is now open for dine-in service and take-out. This has been really successful, and we feel grateful about still being able to feed our community and connecting with our customers again.

During this time, we also reopened our kitchen to prepare meals for individuals in need through local-area YMCA locations in partnership with Loaves & Fishes. My wife Dianne and I joined a team of D’Amico volunteers and chefs to cook, package, and deliver 1,000 healthy meals per week.

We’ve also been doing a number of things to help the community in the last few weeks as the need for food has grown. D’Amico Catering has a number of trucks that are not being used right now, so we’ve been assisting local pop-up food drives to move supplies from one spot to another. Additionally, we’re partnering with a local food shelf to provide lunches for their volunteers. Feeding people is important—it’s the heart of what we do.

Q | Any bright spots in this crisis that you’d like to share?

A | I like that this time allows us to focus on our menus. We’re looking at making [operations] a little bit smaller, which we feel will result in an even higher quality experience. It also helps with labor which is one of the biggest challenges that the restaurant industry is facing right now. Just like back in 2008 when the recession hit, this crisis is forcing us to run a bit leaner and that is the perfect incubator for new solutions and ideas.

The support my brother [business partner Richard D’Amico] and I have received during this pandemic has been impactful. I can’t tell you the number of emails, calls, and texts that we’ve received saying, “No need to call me back, but just wanted you to know we’re thinking about you.” We also created an emergency fund for our employees that our customers have been extremely generous in donating to. We really appreciate that. Gift cards have been big too. The sales right now are really helpful, but it’s the promise that they’ll be back that puts a smile on my face.

Q | Do you anticipate getting “back to normal” any time soon?

A | I don’t think about going back to normal, I just think about what we need to tackle today. No one knows exactly what normal will be in the future.