How a San Francisco Restaurant Adapted to the COVID-19 Crisis *

How Flights adapted to Covid-19

In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Restaurants are no different, and staying in business is a challenge that can no longer be solved using conventional methods.

As government restrictions are easing off, restaurants are opening their doors for customers once again. Smart marketing of your restaurant is now more crucial than ever, because it’s no longer business as usual and customer demands and expectations have changed.

Innovative, smart marketing is here to save the day. That’s why when we see a restaurant that’s just killing it during this pandemic, we would love to highlight it, to inspire both new and old businesses to action.

Flights restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area – during normal days a fancy outing for innovative food and drink – is being bold, innovative and scrappy in how they have structured their offering and marketing, and it’s worth your time to see what they’ve done (and what you could do!)


Flights is the creation of Alex Hult – a native Sweed who made the US his home so that he could play hockey in the NHL. When looking for a post hockey career, Alex and his wife Sarah, created a novel concept on a vacation to Hawaii while in search of the perfect flight of cocktails. Combining comfort food tapas-style with an innovative cocktail program they created Flights. In non Shelter-in-Place times, it is a dining experience meant for sharing, combined with very attentive servers and aviation themed decor — a night out both delicious AND entertaining; growing quickly to 5 restaurants in the San Francisco bay area and Las Vegas.


As noted, Alex is closely tied to people and events in Europe and saw how the Coronavirus / social distancing society was deeply affecting communities. He wanted to be proactive about doing things differently so that two goals could be accomplished.

  1. The restaurants would be able to survive – making enough money to keep employees employed and the business afloat.
  2. The restaurants could be a force for good for the whole business community; and supporting the greater good for both people on the front line of the virus (health care workers) as well as doing something good the vast majority of us sequestered in our homes.


Seeing what was happening to restaurants in Europe, Alex and team drew down existing menu inventory and designed a set of meals that would be simple to order / load in the trunk of the car, but still a good representation of the Flights food quality and taste.

Following the very sage recommendations of the experts at the HBR, they didn’t worry about keeping high-end price point, but focused more on a good value; including adding very attractive alcohol options.

The items in this approach are branded “the Family Market” – and in addition to the meal/libation at hand also provide much needed basics like paper products, coffee and wine (the last two of which local…) And… they are able to include attractive offerings from other local businesses. (More on this in Step 2).

While Alex had help from local artists to create this menu, PosterMyWall has templates that could help you create something much like this. And note how they included their partners in local beer, wine and coffee to grow their marketing base.


So while a typical Flights night out is very interactive – today’s environment needs to be as socially distant as a drive through restaurant so the above described product can be delivered in a hands-off, highly effective way. As Alex said “Why reinvent the wheel? McDonalds and the rest have trained us well in how to do a drive-through.” And the parking lot that used to hold restaurant diners now holds motorists awaiting their trunks to be filled with their ‘to go’ orders and other items from the market.


Alex approached the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce and started a larger program called Feed the Need Bay Area. The idea was that all the local restaurants could be a part of it – one that the patrons of those restaurants could support, with both donations and their patronage of their restaurants. By working with the chamber, the team from Flights was able to leverage design and marketing talent, accounting support for the fundraising, and an already organized effort to support each other’s well being.

The local restaurants and businesses got together to do what they could to support the community – it is heartwarming to see what we can do for each other.


Hult and team Flights had already established a fairly robust marketing program around social media, email marketing, and have kicked off text based alerts; and now all efforts are now focused around Feed the Need and the Family Market. Because of their existing audiences, and the larger connections to the community, they are able to extend their food and fellowship to those in need; the people serving at the front line (and keep everyone who follows the #feedtheneedbayarea hashtag in the loop as to progress and participants.) So people who follow their posts will see not only a way to feed their families… but a way to participate in our bigger challenge of keeping our communities alive.


Here in California, we are officially Sheltering in Place through the month of April. To help add interest during the month, the team Family Market is adding a few additions to keep things interesting.

  • Date night offering. In addition to having a grown-up meal together, the kit will include some activities to help spur ‘moments’ – one of the ideas put forth by Alex’s marketing friends is to have a ‘love notes for dummies’ primer included with the repast.
  • Backyard beers and burgers made easy. As the weather gets a bit warmer, putting together a picnic you can take to your own slice of the outdoors.
  • Easter meals & treats – creating one version for families with tots and another for families with tweens & teens.

Applying a creative approach to restaurant management and marketing can help your restaurant stand out from the competition, and like Flights restaurant, you also give back to the community.

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