Carnevor responds to demand with curbside service

Available Thursdays and Fridays starting tomorrow

Omar Shaikh, president and co-owner of SURG Restaurant Group LLC.

Downtown Milwaukee upscale steakhouse Carnevor is reopening on Thursday for curbside to-go service.

The restaurant, located at 718 N. Milwaukee St., has been closed since last month when the state shut down in-house service at bars and restaurants in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Many area restaurants remained open for carryout and delivery service, but that didn’t seem feasible at first, said co-owner Omar Shaikh in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee.

“Carnevor is a very expensive restaurant, and in this day in age with everything happening and people losing their jobs and people losing money in the market, it’s probably not top of mind to go and get takeout from one of the most expensive restaurants (in the city) to take home to your family,” he said.

But that wasn’t the case for the large number of people who reached out to Shaikh over the past three weeks, asking how they could keep the restaurant in business.

“People kept texting me and people kept asking and after a while it was like, ‘Hey! Hang on, we have something here,'” he said.

Curbside service at Carnevor will only be available two days a week — Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. — but it fills diner demand and gives employees some work opposed to no work at all with temporary layoffs. Shaikh said on Tuesday that the number of staff members has yet to be determined.

The operation will be “true curbside” service, meaning customers call upon arrival and workers wearing masks and gloves run orders out to customers’ cars. Shaikh said the restaurant did a lot of research on how it will all work.

Orders are placed via Carnevor’s website or by phone– between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. for same-day pick-up. Diners can place their order in advance on the days the restaurant is closed.

“We still have somebody answering phones five days a week, five, six hours a day,” said Shaikh.

Carnevor has rolled out a limited carry-out menu, accounting for a smaller staff and limited inventory. But diners can still choose from six entrees as well as a couple starters, salads, sides and desserts. A selection of red, white and sparkling wine is available by the bottle for a reduced price.

“It’s a one stop shop,” said Shaikh. “I know people can go to liquor and wine stores to buy it, but if you’re just coming out to Carnevor and that’s your only stop and you wanted to get a bottle of wine for dinner, we just wanted to make it convenient for people.”

Shaikh said a positive that has come out of the COVID-19 crisis is how it has brought people together.

“It’s been a humbling experience,” he said. “I’ve had people reach out that I haven’t talked to in years, just to see how we’re doing.”

But during these tough times, keeping the restaurant open comes down to how much business it’s doing, so “we’ll play it by ear,” he said.

Get more news and insights in the March 30 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee:

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.

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