Fine Dining Re-imagined at Canlis: Virtual Bingo, Piano Concerts, and Comfort Food

Updated: Mar 22

Seattle’s landmark fine dining destination, Canlis restaurant, pivoted quickly when it realized it could no longer provide its James Beard Award-winning meals to its legions of loyal customers.

Canlis in Seattle Covid-19 Small Business Story, Fighting For Small

On March 16, Canlis began offering a pick-up bagel breakfast, a drive-through burger lunch, and family-style dinners featuring a bottle of wine delivered to customers' doorsteps. Their social media post announcing the switch read, “Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now. Instead, this is one idea for safely creating jobs for our employees while serving as much of Seattle as we can… We’ve got this, Seattle.”

Canlis is also offering CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture boxes. In partnership with local farmers, Canlis leaders “curate” weekly selections that include everything from farm-fresh eggs and grass-fed ground beef to just-picked vegetables and freshly milled flour.

The restaurant also turned to digital to promote their new bottle service. Updated website copy beckons, “Quarantined preprohibitionists, bartenders, and delivery drivers of the world unite! We’ll get through this, and raise a glass to the loved ones willing to live with us 24/7.” A vast selection of wine, beer, and premium cocktails is available for shipping or pickup. Canlis Director of Wine and Spirits Nelson Daquip shares his go-to bottle list on the website, and prospective drinkers can text a sommelier for recommendations.

After launching new dining and drink options, Canlis got creative by hosting Friday Night Virtual Bingo, as reported by the Seattle Pi, and live streaming piano concerts on weekday evenings. Bingo night is open to all: complimentary bingo cards are included with customer orders, but no purchase is necessary - all interested parties also have the option to mail a postcard with their address to Canlis, in exchange for a bingo card. In typical fine dining spirit, the Bingo balls are “shuffled” or tossed in a wooden salad bowl before the number is called. Owner Mark Canlis serves as bingo caller and participants race to be the first to text him a photo of their completed cards.

We asked owner Mark Canlis to share his thoughts on all of the innovation within his restaurant recently. His response was truly inspiring:

"What is most essential about the restaurant industry is not that we feed people, it's that we remember the true ethos of this business: hospitality has, for the last couple thousand years, been about making room for the stranger, "the other." It's about turning towards one another, not turning away. Our industry was made for moments like these and our country needs this kind of leadership now more than ever."

Canlis shows us that small businesses can be true leaders when remain agile to respond to our customers’ ever-changing needs, and focus on the passion that brought us to our work in the first place.

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