Local Richmond Restaurant Creates Pop Up Kitchen
Salt & Forge started as a counter-service restaurant serving made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch in historic Jackson Ward. Their breakfast consists of biscuit sandwiches made with Richmond's best all-butter biscuit, as well as mashed to order avocado toast and a decadent Croque Monsieur. They serve biscuits that are light and perfect for on-the-go as well as a few dishes that will satisfy and hit the spot. Their lunch menu offers a tremendous range of delicious sandwiches and salads that function as a meal instead of just an excuse to eat more veggies. Salt & Forge cooks all of their turkey, pork, brisket, and roast beef in-house and even makes their own corned beef spice blend, which they then brine for six days before cooking.
Salt & Forge is a restaurant perfect for busy people who spend their days running around as their food is made quickly to order. It's also perfect for a relaxing breakfast, brunch, or lunch if you have a little more time to enjoy your meal.
In 2018, Salt & Forge made their first step into expansion by acquiring a food truck. The food truck serves a smaller menu than the restaurant, but still serves the same delicious, made-to-order food, including some special menus that have debuted only on the food truck! Their food truck has allowed them to share Salt & Forge's amazing food and brand with a larger number of people and communities.
Thankfully, before COVID-19, they placed a tremendous emphasis on to-go, pickup, and delivery orders, so they already had a menu and systems in place to serve their food. Their dining room has been closed to dine-in guests since March 16 and Salt & Forge does not anticipate re-opening for dine-in customers until there is a viable and available vaccine.
Overall, their restaurant has seen a tremendous reduction in sales and foot traffic as the downtown offices that made up most of their customers have been nearly empty since March. Thankfully, their food truck has allowed them to take the Salt & Forge experience to neighborhoods around Richmond so they can reach and serve guests where they are during these difficult times rather than asking customers to come to them. Having an online ordering system on the food truck has allowed Salt & Forge to host completely contactless dinners and brunches. All ordering and payment is handled digitally which allows them to space out pickup times to ensure social distancing throughout the event.
Collectively, they have been able to figure out a balance between restaurant and food truck that has allowed them to keep their entire staff employed at or above their same pay levels as before COVID and they have not had to involuntarily furlough any employees.
COVID has forced Salt & Forge to shift the physical location where they serve their guests and to seek out new revenue streams that allow them to continue operating and also creating space within their margins to give back to the community. Since COVID, they have tried to find and create opportunities to identify different groups within the community who need their support. Here are a few of the successful initiatives they have executed thus far:
1. Gift cards for staff: They sold over $5,400 of gift cards during the second half of March, with 100% of the sales being given to their staff to provide them with on-hand cash in the event they encountered financial difficulties as they faced a tremendous amount of unknown at the time they began this effort.
2. "Give a Biscuit" and Nurses' Week: They started a campaign to collect $5 donations from individuals and businesses. For every $5 they received, they made and delivered one biscuit sandwich to a nearby hospital. They aggregated those donations to deliver enough biscuit sandwiches to feed entire emergency departments, COVID units, and ICU staff. During Nurses' Week alone, they partnered with Save RVA Restaurants, FLAG RVA, the Richmond Academy of Medicine, and VA Pride to make and deliver over 1,500 biscuits to both night and day shifts at every major hospital in the Richmond area. To date, they have made and delivered over 2,500 biscuits as part of this effort.
3. Fighting Social Injustice and Racial Inequality: In the aftermath of the protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, they donated over $2,800 to local and national organizations such as Richmond for All, Black Lives Matter's Campaign Zero, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
4. BLTs for the RVA Food Justice Alliance: Every summer they serve a Hanover Tomato BLT featuring Bangin' Pimento Cheese from Soul N' Vinegar (located in Church Hill). This sandwich is a celebration of local produce and local businesses. This summer, they also made an effort to support a local cause, donating $1 from every BLT sold to support the RVA Food Justice Alliance and the work they do to improve food access in Richmond's most vulnerable communities.
5. Salt & Forge's Pop Up Kitchen: This is a new initiative set to begin on Thursday, August 20, and Friday, August 21. Every month, they are going to create a new themed menu that they will serve for two nights: one night in the restaurant and one night on the food truck. They will also select a new community organization every month and this charity will receive 25% of sales from both nights of the pop up. They are focusing on organizations that advocate for childrens' welfare, voting rights, social justice, racial equality, and animal rights.
- August event: "Don't Cry for Me ART-gentina" Argentine steakhouse sandwiches to benefit ART 180
- September event: "Hassellhoff-toberfest" Oktoberfest fare to benefit ASK Childrens' Cancer Foundation
- October event: menu TBD to benefit When We All Vote
Other fundraising events:
- September 4th to support the MDA at the Fox Creek neighborhood in Midlothian
- September 17th to support Reinhart House at St. Mary's Hospital
- September 27th Socially Distant Drag Brunch in coordination with Virginia Pride
In addition to community support efforts, COVID has also given Salt & Forge opportunities to experiment with some of their menu and offerings, which included the creation of a "Pulp Fiction" themed burger menu that makes regular appearances on their food truck and includes burgers such as "Le Big Mac", a "Big Kahuna Burger", and yes, a "Royale with Cheese".
The community can support Salt & Forge by eating their delicious food! Both their restaurant and food truck are equipped with online ordering systems that allow you to place advance or immediate orders. Especially, join them for their Pop Up Kitchen events and help them support local organizations!