Founder of Dallas’ Italian eatery Il Bracco, Robert Quick has had a buzzing career. During his time working as a chef de partie at two of Thomas Keller’s restaurants in Napa Valley, managing Hillstone Restaurant Group locations in San Francisco and Orange County and owning a Bay Area pizza franchise, Quick learned to successfully navigate both the culinary and business sides of the service industry before he launched il Bracco in May 2019.
Like the rest of the Dallas dining scene, COVID-19 has had devastating effects on Quick’s budding business. Still, reopening has brought new beginnings and a focus on steady leadership and employee wellbeing.
How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis?
While this is difficult for all of us, our leadership and steady hand is more important than ever to help our staff feel secure in an ever-changing world.
What kind of drop-in business did you see?
Depending on the day and the week and everything else, we [were] anywhere between 40–50 percent of normal business, which [was] a bummer. In our normal course of business, we are a pretty alcohol-heavy, wine specifically, restaurant … when you take that off, we are already down to 60 percent of normal business … It’s been bizarre for sure, but we [were] not down as much as I think everybody feared that we would be.
Did your business continuity plan work, or were there surprises?
It was a struggle to quickly pivot our focus from guests in the building to to-go service, our team rallied around the challenge, and the biggest surprise was the incredible demand and response to our to-go service.
What are the short-term ramifications for your specific industry?
Although the best health and safety practices have always been top of mind for us, helping our guests feel safe in reopening will be a challenge. It’s up to restaurants to hold the highest standards and keep guest safety at the top of their operation.
Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?
The kindness and compassion of others coming together to support the local community has been remarkable and something I’ll never forget.
How are you maintaining your company culture?
Our company culture was built for a time like this. Treating each other with respect is at the center of everything we do. What is more respectful to each other than care and caution as we all find our footing in the new normal?
What have you learned that may change your policies or strategies for the future?
We never had to-go business factoring this heavily in our mix before. Our future floor plans and operations will have to take into account the guests’ willingness to dine at home.
Despite COVID being extremely challenging, do you have any plans for expansion?
This is a tough time for anybody to think of expansion and focus on expansion, but at the same time, we are a well-capitalized group, and all of our investors and all of our partners signed up for us to grow. We have some other concepts that we’d like to put in Dallas. Our five-year plan is to build three or four more concepts in Dallas in that Park Cities, Park Cities-adjacent, Preston Hollow-adjacent, areas. [We want to] prove those concepts in Dallas with a guest base that we know and love, and then, hopefully, export them to other markets once they are proven and flushed out.
What will things look like for your company and industry in another six months?
Brighter days are ahead. Companies with great culture and who treat their employees with respect will win the day. We feel that we’re in the catbird seat moving forward.
Do you have advice for other local business leaders?
While there is a lot of confusion now, doing what you believe is best for your employees and community can never be a wrong choice.