A new dining concept Essence Restaurant Group planned to introduce in the future has been fast-tracked due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.
Jimmy Berger’s Chicken Shack will debut May 1 as a pop-up, carryout restaurant at 919 Cherry St. SE. The restaurant will replace the award-winning Grove restaurant that Essence operated for nine years until closing March 16 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Although Essence owners hoped to reopen Grove after state mandates expired, it became clear early on Grove’s intimate-setting concept would no longer work in a post-pandemic, social-distancing dining environment. So, a concept that Grove head chef Mike Borraccio had been discussing for future rollout suddenly became a reality.
“This is the type of concept that the Essence senior leadership team was planning to introduce in the future, but the future is now, so we’re going with it,” Borraccio said. “We’re excited to bring this fun, pop-up concept to Grand Rapids.”
For the time being, Jimmy Berger’s will be carryout only. Once the stay-home order has lifted, the restaurant plans to offer limited, fast-casual seating and catering.
As Essence ramps up for Jimmy Berger’s Chicken Shack opening, it also has been preparing its other concepts, The Green Well in East Hills and the flagship Bistro Bella Vita in downtown Grand Rapids, to be ready when the state mandates are lifted.
Since the beginning of the quarantine period, the Green Well quickly pivoted to a carryout and online ordering operation. That process has worked so well that Essence leaders plan to put a heavy emphasis on carryout and online ordering once it morphs back into full-service operations.
Bistro Bella Vita also will return to full service once it’s safe to do so. Essence leaders are planning on a phased approach to returning to full-service by incorporating physical distancing practices to ensure the health and safety of its guests.
Bistro’s large dining room areas will serve as an advantage, as it can easily accommodate guests while also having adequate space between seating areas.