September 14, 2020     ,

By   – Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal

Wilmington’s Deco Food Hall reopens for indoor and outdoor dining on Monday after a roughly six-month hiatus from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local developer The Buccini/Pollin Group decided to kick operations back into gear at the 13,000-square-foot concept as some office tenants begin returning to work in the surrounding downtown facilities, said Rich Snyder, Buccini/Pollin’s director of food and beverage.

While the nearly 18-month-old food hall will look largely the same as pre-coronavirus times, he noted, some tables have been removed to comply with Delaware’s 60% occupancy guidelines and there will be no lines permitted at vendor stalls. Transactions will be done via touchless digital menus on customers’ phones. Guests can scan a concept’s associated QR code hung on posters or displayed on table tents.

The food hall also adapted to the coronavirus era by launching new “Deco On The Go” takeout and delivery options on platforms including Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats and Toast. Customers are able to combine orders from Deco’s seven vendors in a single transaction.

The service aims to add convenience for customers experiencing the hassles of pandemic life, Snyder noted. For example, families with parents working from home and kids doing virtual schooling may want different items for dinner, and the service adds that flexibility.

Snyder likened relaunching Deco to “turning on the Titanic.” Located in the the DuPont Building at 10th and Orange streets, the space’s utilities run about $8,000 per month. Not all of the services could be turned off during the temporary closure, but the utilities ran closer to about $3,200 per month.

Snyder anticipates the 60% occupancy threshold to continue for about another six months. Vendors are expected to shoot for $500 a day in sales, a threshold The Buccini/Pollin Group says it’s confident is attainable.

The company has worked with the Deco vendors to adjust rent so that it equates to 8% of sales rather than a set flat rate fee. Buccini/Pollin also did away with common area maintenance fees to help offset the financial burden for the food hall’s concepts.

Buccini/Pollin Group is hoping that reopening Deco will help bring visitors back to downtown Wilmington. Chef Tyler Akin’s concept Le Cavalier at The Green Room, situated down the block from the food hall, debuted last month.

While he hopes the Covid-19 era is short lived, Snyder anticipates some of the rapidly developed innovations in restaurant technology are here to stay, like handheld point of sale systems that servers can use tableside.

Touchless QR code menus also eliminate the need for a cashier or counter person, he noted, potentially saving a vendor $1,000 a week in labor costs that can quickly add up in the hard hit industry.

Buccini/Pollin Group is also behind a forthcoming arcade and duckpin bowling food, beverage and entertainment concept in Wilmington that was anticipated to open around this time pre-Covid. That launch is likely pushed to fall 2021, Snyder said.

Deco will be open 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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