St. Pete Meat & Provisions — a digital butcher shop that lets customers order restaurant quality meat online and pick it up for cooking at home — is set to launch on Thursday.
The concept was developed by the team behind Greenstock, a downtown St. Petersburg fast-casual salad and wrap restaurant, and is one of several innovations underway at Greenstock and sister restaurant Il Ritorno, as they have adapted over the past six months to doing business in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Everything was changing. It was a lot of coming up with plans and then changing them again. You have to be flexible about everything,” said Erica Benstock, a partner in Greenstock and St. Pete Meat & Provisions. “We had to think what’s best for the business and what is appealing to consumers. Is it something they want and what’s the best way to get it them. It’s been difficult at times because what you want to work, might not be what people actually need at the time.”
Erica Benstock and her husband, David Benstock, collaborated with husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Brooke Boyd, owner of Hype group, and Peter Boyd, owner of Boyd Construction, on St. Pete Meat & Provisions. It features an online butcher case stocked with essentials from beef, poultry, pork, and special “Butcher’s Cuts” such as lamb and veal. It also has handcrafted seasonings, rubs, salad dressings, cooking oils and more from Il Ritorno and Greenstock.
“Consumers have largely embraced e-commerce for their grocery purchases since Covid-19 took the world by storm, and I believe my guests should have access to restaurant-quality food without having to step foot in a restaurant or specialty market,” said David Benstock, a noted local chef.
Customers order online and can select the exact cuts they want through the website at www.stpetemeat.com or by phone. A pickup time can be selected while ordering. Pickup is available Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Greenstock at 449 Central Ave. All meats are vacuum sealed and ready for immediate use, or to freeze for future meals.
The restaurateurs have added other ways of doing business in addition to the digital butcher shop.
Prior to the pandemic, Il Ritorno, a fine-dining Italian restaurant, had never offered delivery or encouraged diners to take food to go.
“We feel that it’s part of the experience, to be in the restaurant and eat the food. Finer dining doesn’t always translate that well into to-go packages. It’s something we have avoided but we had to adapt,” Erica Benstock said.
Il Ritorno added Uber Eats and began offering additional to-go options such as family meals, designed to feed three to four people with an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. The menu varies daily and is updated on the company’s social media pages.
Il Ritorno also just launched frozen meals, including a version of its signature dish, short rib mezzaluna, that’s now in a lasagna format. The meals can be heated in 45 minutes.
Greenstock, which is next door to Il Ritorno, had just opened in December 2019 and was starting to hit its stride when the pandemic hit, Benstock said.
“With the way we had set up the store, there was no way to have anyone inside, so we had to think outside the box as to how we were going to open beyond just using Uber Eats and Byte Squad,” she said.
While some grocery stores were struggling to keep food on the shelves, Greenstock was able to get produce, so it started offering $35 produce bags, filled with items like lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, mangoes and garlic, as well as recipe kits.
Another step was to make the customer experience contactless. They installed a turntable door, made from a marine-grade, high-density polyethylene sheet.
“You can open the front door to Greenstock still, but once you step in, there’s a big plexiglass lazy Susan in the middle of it. Our staff stays on one side. Guests are on the other. They can rotate the center to give guests their food or collect payment,” she said.
The store added “to go” ordering from its own website, in addition to existing to-go options it had through Uber Eats and Byte Squad. It recently added its own group deliveries to Terra Ceia and is exploring deliveries to other neighborhoods.
“We’re just trying to make sure we do everything we can to make sure our guests can get healthy fresh food options from us,” Benstock said.
She hopes to see a return to the pre-pandemic normal but understands it will take a long time before most people feel comfortable eating indoors with other people close by.
“It may be a year I think before things feel normal again,” she said. “In the meantime, I know we and many restaurants will do whatever we can to make it to the other side. So I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more restaurants offering more to-go options moving forward … I think for the next year that’s pretty much going to be everyone’s mindset. There will still be the occasional outing, but for the most part people will stay at home.”