Like so many independent restaurant owners, Anne Klingler has had to reimagine her business this past year. From switching up her menu to adding an entirely new service model and launching a late-night snack delivery concept, she’s facing the challenges of running a restaurant in the era of COVID-19 head on and finding some unexpected opportunities along the way.
General Mills recently checked in with Klingler to find out more about the changes she has made at her restaurant, Outlanders in Marquette, Mich. We were first introduced to Klingler in 2018 when she was a winner in the Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest, and we were eager to find out how she is adapting her business during the pandemic.
Outlanders: Then & Now
Since 2013, Outlanders has been carrying out its mission to provide wholesome, home-cooked meals for busy families. Initially a small takeout-focused restaurant, Outlanders later expanded to its current space to give patrons the added option to dine in its comfortable, kid-friendly setting or purchase scratch-made meals to take and cook at home.
Many of the Outlanders’ family-style meals have ample servings for four to six hungry people, with best-sellers including 3-Cheese and Spinach Shells, Meatloaf and Chicago Dogs.
“Whether customers dine in or take out, we want to bring folks together to slow down and enjoy a meal with family and friends,” said Klingler.
Outlanders’ early focus on family-style takeout meals may have prepared the restaurant for the current state of curbside and delivery; however, Klingler knew they’d have to try some additional ways to serve customers as the pandemic set in.
Walk-up, Drive-Thru Services
When indoor dining was not possible, Klingler and her team staged an outdoor area to give customers the opportunity to walk up or drive through to order some of the restaurant’s specialties, along with new menu items such as burgers, hot dogs and barbecue pork. Customers could pick food up and bring it home, never leaving their cars, or they could dine in an outdoor area with picnic tables and umbrellas.
Klingler says that as the seasons change, the weather will dictate when and if they can use the outdoor space. And, even with some indoor dining resuming, Klingler anticipates that curbside pick-up is likely here to stay.
In addition, she has been busy with an entirely new concept to bring the food local customers are craving right to their doorstep.
Late-Night Snack Delivery
In August, Klingler and her business partner and daughter, Nichole, launched a late-night snack delivery service called Nikki’s Snack Dispatch that uses the kitchen space at Outlanders but operates as an independent business.
“We had heard of the concept of a ghost kitchen and thought it may work for us,” said Klingler, adding that when Nichole would drive home each night, she noticed that nearby fast food restaurants were very busy—an indicator that there was a market for late-night food.
The two women sensed an opportunity in the making, to offer fun snacks and more indulgent foods like tacos, nachos, mac and cheese, cookies, brownies and popcorn—the types of comfort food that consumers are often craving later in the evening hours, with convenient doorstep delivery.
They also saw an opportunity to bring in a new revenue stream.
“With all of our offsite catering and summer festivals cancelled, we are facing a big loss in revenue so wanted to try something new,” said Klingler. “Plus, who hasn’t wished someone would deliver caramel corn or nachos to their door at midnight?”
Open for business after 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nikki’s caters to some of the same customers that dine with Outlanders, but is also reaching new customers—a younger demographic that includes students from the nearby college.
All signs indicate that the new venture is poised for success with the women extending their business hours on Saturday evenings to 1:30 a.m. and adding new menu items like cheese curds and chicken tenders—which have proven to be wildly popular. They are also exploring adding items such as homemade potato chips and muffin tops.
“Nikki’s Snack Dispatch gives the opportunity to do the opposite of what we are doing at Outlanders,” said Klingler, adding that the pandemic has brought out the creativity in her team and the gusto to try something new. “It has been fun to have the opportunity to do something entirely different and see where it goes.”
To learn more about Klingler and Outlanders and Nikki’s Snack Dispatch, visit: