Milwaukee-based Lowlands Group will hit the restart button this Friday as all eight of its restaurants begin carryout, curbside and delivery service.
The business announced the reopening in a press release Tuesday. Its concepts, including Cafe Benelux in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward and Cafe Hollander in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Mequon, Brookfield and Madison, have been temporarily shut down since late March in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“After taking the time to thoughtfully consider how we could reopen safely for both our customers and employees, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re back,” said Eric Wagner, chief executive officer of Lowlands Group, in a statement.
In the midst of its company-wide closure, Lowlands opened a new concept, Buckatabon Tavern & Supper Club, which replaced Cafe Bavaria in the Wauwatosa Village. The Northwoods-themed restaurant opened in late April for carryout service on weekends.
Starting Friday, all Lowlands’ concepts will reopen with their own revised menus focused on comfort food such as fried chicken buckets and fish fries, as well as a new “street food lineup” with snack items like fish bites, mac and cheese croquettes and their take on bitterballen.
To-go beverage packages, including cocktails and Lowlands’ extensive beer selection, will also be available.
All locations will be open this weekend Friday through Sunday but next weekend that will expand to Wednesdays through Sundays for dinner, and Sundays for brunch.
In an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee on Tuesday, Wagner said a big motivation for reopening was bringing employees back to work. All full-time salaried managers will return at full pay, which is about 50 to 60 employees. The group will bring back as many hourly workers as it can as operations ramp up.
In addition, the company is covering 100 percent of employee health insurance costs in April and May and offers an employee family meal program.
Wagner expects carryout and delivery sales will be equal to only about 10% to 30% of its normal sales, across its wide range of restaurants. But he said reopening partially now will help Lowlands prepare to open its patio seating in the next two to three weeks.
“We felt like it was important to get the rust off and get our people back to work and start generating sales, putting us in a really good place for when the patios are ready to open,” said Wagner. “It takes a lot more than people would expect to shut these places down and then to reopen them again.”
Although it was challenging, the opening of Buckatabon Tavern & Supper Club has also helped the restaurant develop and implement safety procedures that will be in place at the rest of Lowlands’ restaurants going forward.
Wagner said Lowlands’ outdoor patios will be critical to operations once Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order lifts on May 26 and diners feel safe to dine out again. Seating will be set up with required distance between all tables.
“People are going to crave sitting outside with friends and having a cocktail or having some lunch or just doing something we used to take so for granted,” he said.
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