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How Mueller’s Italian Standout L’Oca d’Oro Is Adapting to COVID-19

The Mueller restaurant’s co-owners Adam Orman and chef Fiore Tedesco are feeding food-insecure people and advocating for service industry changes while the dining room stays closed

Dishes from L’Oca d’Oro
Dishes from L’Oca d’Oro
L’Oca d’Oro/Facebook

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Eater checked in with Austin’s defining restaurants to see how the pandemic has affected business, service models, and more. Next up in this series: Adam Orman, co-owner and general manager of Mueller Italian restaurant L’Oca d’Oro.

Eater Austin: How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting business right now?
Adam Orman: L’Oca d’Oro is not really a restaurant right now so much as a food production facility. We were not going to open our dining room and risk the health of our employees until numbers were much lower for much longer than they’ve been. But, we couldn’t allow our employees to depend on the uncertainty of unemployment benefits. We aggressively sought contracts from the city to prepare meals for food-insecure populations that would allow restaurants to hire back staff, feed people, and generate predictable, consistent revenue. In the last six months, L’Oca and other Good Work Austin [GWA, a nonprofit restaurant coalition] restaurants have produced over 300,000 meals funded by the city, grants, and donations.

What is the current service model?
In addition to this food-access work, we launched a subscription service with weekly and monthly options and curated wine pairings. We send subscribers an email on the week of pickup with instructions on preparing their meal at home. Chef Fiore Tedesco and his little friend Chef Luigi [a puppet] shoot a video for each meal to help guide people through the finishing steps. Support has been tremendous.

Are you planning any future changes?
We’re done with changes for right now. We have holiday subscription packages. We’re promoting GWA’s Go Out with Confidence protocols so folks can dine or buy takeout from locally owned establishments that are keeping Austin safe. We’re going to continue to advocate for more contracts and relief from City Council to help Austin’s independent restaurant get through this catastrophe in the best shape possible to recover next year.

What measures are you currently implementing to prevent the spread of COVID?
No guests. Our staff are temped every day. They have masks on while in the building at all times. We never have more than 12 people in the building at one time, so it is easy for them to distance. We have had the whole team PCR- and antibody-tested. The whole staff has signed a health declaration regarding their behavior and contacts outside of work and are obliged to inform us if any of the factors change.

How has business been so far?
This model works, but we’re basically making five times the amount of food at 12 percent the cost. We’ve hired back all of our staff that are able to work and haven’t had to be at the whims of the state’s opening orders.

L'Oca d'Oro

1900 Simond Avenue, , TX 78723 (737) 212-1876 Visit Website

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