Experience Downtown Blog

From Fine Dining to Fine Curbside at Zarletti

May 29, 2020 /   Bryan Boyce Zarletti Milwaukee Downtown

The Heroes Project salutes those who MKE a difference. To engage with our community virtually, we've documented the stories of downtown's frontline heroes, who ultimately inspired our next mural. Titled "The Hero in You," by Milwaukee artist Ken Brown, will transform MacArthur Square this June. For more details, visit www.milwaukeedowntown.com/art. Photography for Milwaukee Downtown by Andrew Feller.

For many restaurants like Zarletti Downtown, the transition from fine dining to curbside pickup is not an easy one. But that hasn’t stopped this beloved northern Italian restaurant from rising to the challenge. With guidance from General Manager Bryan Boyce, Zarletti has successfully transformed its services to safely provide for customers across Milwaukee. 

To continue serving customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan knew Zarletti would have to change how it operated. For Bryan, this shift began with revising the restaurant’s function.  “We’ve had to drastically change our entire business model,” Bryan states, “We pivoted on March 16th from a fine dining restaurant, catering to locals, business travelers and people from all over the world, to a curbside delivery restaurant.” 

New curbside service presented new challenges for Zarletti. “The entire menu had to be redone, the wine list was converted into a retail list, service standards for our staff changed and our hours changed,” says Bryan. There is also a need to spread the word about Zarletti’s new options. Whether posting to social media, sending emails or sharing menus with apartment associations, Zarletti does everything it can to show the community it’s still there for them. 

Zarletti also incorporated new safety procedures to protect the health of workers and curbside customers. These protocols include more than just wearing masks and sanitizing surfaces. According to Bryan, Zarletti covers everything from taking staff temperatures to keeping the doors locked when orders aren’t being picked up. The goal is to ensure the restaurant’s services are as contactless as possible. “All transactions take place over the phone,” shares Bryan, “We have been able to keep on about 70 percent of our staff by adhering to the strictest standards.” 

Regardless, Bryan acknowledges how these positive strides don’t completely dispel the hardships of the situation. “The stress of the unknown is very difficult,” Bryan admits. It helps that Bryan’s significant other understands, as she works in the medical field. Together, they share the burden of being in public-facing professions and can openly discuss their struggles. 

To get through each day, Bryan emphasizes the importance of communication and taking breaks with his significant other. He also highlights how important it is to stay engaged and organized. “Making a schedule for our day to day over morning coffee has really helped, along with planning for the future and spending virtual time with friends and family,” Bryan shares. 

Being able to connect with others is a gift Bryan tries to never take for granted. He knows the effort will be worth it in the end. Offering up advice to all, Bryan powerfully states: “The positive connections we make now and always will reverberate for a lifetime. Give of yourself when you can, and know that people everywhere need to rely on each other to accomplish goals and support one another. Nothing great is accomplished easily nor quickly. So, during this time when everything feels like a struggle or failure, know the investment in each other for a better and stronger future is what is most important.”

About the author: Claire Barten is Milwaukee Downtown's Special Events & Marketing Intern, spreading Milwaukee Downtown's community ideals through social media and other engaging platforms.

Posted in:  Dining & Nightlife Posted in:  News