Are container bars the future of the bar scene?
The future of the bar as we know it lies in Bean Town. This is the container bar of Yellow Door Taqueria, a model establishment that has successfully weathered the pandemic. And that’s shaping the way bars move into the future.
The bar opened this summer in Boston’s South End. The menu includes specialty cocktails, a family of margaritas, and even mezcal shots. But it’s the nature of the bar itself, set in a shiny red container on an expansive patio, that’s part of a larger food and drink trend.
“It was a creative and fun way to enhance the experience for our customers who prefer to dine out, which isn’t permanent or extremely expensive to run,” says Colleen Hagerty, co-owner of Yellow Door Taqueria. “COVID protocols will forever be integrated into our current and future standard operations. The introduction of a container bar brings an indoor dining experience to the outdoors where many post-pandemic patrons prefer to dine.
In accordance with city regulations, the bar will remain open until December, offering patrons alfresco cocktails, food and cocktails to go. It will reopen next year after the off-season (the restaurant will of course remain open). The menu is rich in tacos, inspired by Californian and Mexican cuisines. It’s the kind of food and drink you want to eat outside, if you can, because it brings to mind a barren Mexico City street.
What makes it the sign of the times? In short, nailing down all the little things restaurants have had to do to stay relevant during the pandemic. This includes an inviting outdoor dining space, creative workarounds (a container bar, instead of an expensive build), forward-thinking, building a strong staff, and, of course, items to carry. “Takeout is the new normal and we would much rather our customers had the option to purchase our craft beverages to help keep those sales in-house,” says Hagerty. “Takeout was and is a lifeline in navigating the pandemic.”
It’s no wonder the bar is a hit, with well-made drinks and an environment that’s both fun and friendly. Restaurants across the country have similarly adapted, putting loans to good use through patios, alleyways, rooftops, and more. innovative. Yellow Door has not only endured the past few years, but gracefully blended in, embracing a restaurant crowd that has changed forever.
So what advice would Yellow Door give to other restaurants trying to get by? “Invest in your front and back office teams and in the elements of the business that will enable you to be successful in the long term. You really have to think about three years because so many new restaurants fail in that time frame,” says Hagerty.
She recently participated in auctions where expensive equipment from bankrupt catering companies is sold, such as $1,000 bar stools and $10,000 coffee makers. “The $1,000 stool isn’t going to make poorly executed menus taste better or improve poor customer service,” she says. “A $40 martini glass won’t fix a drink that’s poorly made by an untrained bartender.”
These days, we crave the restaurant experience, perhaps more than ever. This experience is a combination of factors, some old (great food and service), some born out of the pandemic (outdoor options, social distancing). We’ve lost a lot since 2020, but many of the best are making smart progress. Customers are having it pretty well right now and it makes us excited to eat and drink in the future.
“The reopening of restaurants after the peak of COVID has brought so much happiness and joy to people who have lost pieces of themselves in the quarantine stage of the pandemic,” says Hagerty. “Sharing meals together is the love language of many people. Dating, birthdays, family members flying in, the first question is always ‘Where should we eat?’ restaurants give cities their energy and there was real loneliness without them during COVID.