In March, when state and local officials curtailed much of Miami's hospitality trade, Michael Saperstein realized he had to come up with a new way to move his products. In a matter of days after orders stopped coming in, Saperstein's high-end meat wholesaler, Sunshine Provisions in Hallandale Beach, pivoted to direct-to-consumer sales.
The result, he says, was better than expected.
"We had to change our business model to be able to survive, but it's actually worked well for us and for our customers," the chef-turned-entrepreneur says.
Offering products such as Wagyu beef, Spanish octopus, and fresh eggs, Sunshine Provisions is averaging about 40 daily retail orders. Delivery fees are waived for orders over $99.
"We have trucks on the road delivering six days a week. Customers are happy they can buy the same chicken breast Thomas Keller uses at his restaurant, along with other products they wouldn't otherwise have access to," says Saperstein, who co-owns the business with Evan David.
Other local food purveyors have begun offering their inventory in bulk, keeping revenues up by sparing customers the stress of repeated grocery trips. In Miami, the Argentine restaurant Novecento tapped into its supply chain to introduce a meat-market option at its Brickell and Aventura outposts. Facing down a 75 percent decrease in revenue after shutting down two of its locations entirely and downsizing from 160 employees to a staff of ten, the team went all-in on curbside takeout and delivery of its menu items, augmented by uncooked fresh cuts such as skirt steaks, Chilean salmon, and a classic parrillada mix. Novecento is also offering bottles from its wine cellar at a 50 percent discount.
"The grocery-shopping dynamics have changed. Customers are afraid to go to supermarkets, and when they go, they can't find the quality of products we offer. Delivery from online grocers is delayed, so we came up with something that is a win for consumers and at least a temporary lifeline," says Sebastian Stahl, director of marketing for the SuViche Hospitality Group, which operates Novecento. "We're still offering our regular menu, but selling our meats and wine at competitive prices has given us another tool to keep connected to the community."
The disruption in the food supply chain prompted by the pandemic has also made the work of South Florida farmers more important than ever: They offer people the chance to buy fresh and nutritious food in quantity with little or no interaction.
"We used to supply to many local chefs, but now there's little or no demand from them," says Jodi Swank of Swank Specialty Produce. She and her husband Darrin serve the community with a weekly 12-booth Saturday market at their farm in Loxahatchee. To maintain physical distance, only 30 shoppers are allowed into the space at a time. Those looking for a contact-free experience can avail themselves of the farm's preordering option for assorted food boxes.
Buying from farmers also offers consumers a chance to experiment with new flavors. From his ten-acre farm in Miami, Richard Lyons reports that the COVID-19 outbreak has him catering to a new stream of customers who come by to pick up boxes filled with exotic fruit such as carambola, red banana, and green jackfruit. Lyons operates five days a week and is doing what he can to limit possible coronavirus exposure by requiring that his employees wear masks and wash their hands frequently.
"Things have gotten more complicated, and we've seen some decrease in revenue," Lyons says. "But we're here, doing what we have always done. As long as we are allowed to, we'll stay open."
The following is a list of the farms and meat purveyors mentioned above, as well as others selling directly to the public:
Bee Heaven Farm19000 SW 264th St., Homestead
A group of small South Florida family farms, Bee Heaven delivers curated vegetable boxes to customers every other Friday and offers produce for pickup. Nonperishables are also available, including avocado honey, loofah sponges, kombucha, and specialty teas. For more info, visit the group's Facebook page.
Florida Farm to Youflfarmtoyou.fdacs.gov
An initiative from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Farm to You connects producers with consumers and businesses throughout the Sunshine State. The project's online list of commodities (ranging from watermelon to alligator meat) is updated daily and offers vendors' direct contact information.
Novecento1414 Brickell Ave., Miami
18831 Biscayne Blvd. #220, Aventura
The Argentine restaurant offers a variety of fresh meats for curbside pickup and delivery. The list ranges from skirt steaks (four for $35) to Chilean salmon (four for $28) and the restaurant's signature parrillada dish, composed of vacio, picanha, and New York steaks ($34). Rice, sweet potatoes, and other sides are available. Wines are discounted by 50 percent. Call the restaurant to order.
Richard Lyons Nursery20200 SW 134th Ave., Miami
Find a mix of exotic fruit such as sapodilla, green mango, sugar apple, and jujube, along with potted plants. Open from Friday through Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Preorder by calling the nursery.
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Sunshine Provisions2665 S. Park Rd., Hallandale Beach
A wholesale distributor of premium goods for local restaurants and hotels, Sunshine Provisions offers Wagyu beef skirt steak ($26.99 per pound), grass-fed brisket ($7.99 per pound), ground lamb ($7.99 per pound), Spanish octopus ($8.99 per pound), eggs ($5.95 per box), smoked mozzarella logs ($7.50 per pound), and products. Free home delivery is available for orders over $99.
Swank Specialty Produce14311 North Rd., Loxahatchee
Jodi and Darrin Swank operate a market at their specialty-produce farm in Loxahatchee every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Assortments are available for preorder by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tropical Acres Steakhouse2500 Griffin Rd., Fort Lauderdale
The Fort Lauderdale steakhouse offers curbside delivery of meats such as ground beef ($8), boneless rib-eye ($15), porterhouse ($25), and lamb racks ($34), as well as crab cakes ($15) and whole cheesecake and key lime pie ($15 each). Order online or by phone Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Urban Oasis ProjectVarious locations
Urban Oasis Project, the nonprofit behind local fresh markets such as Surfside Market and Arsht Center Monday, has launched a virtual web store that sells fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs. Pop-up pickup sites are located around town; home delivery is available for $10 on orders of $50 or more.