How To Open A Restaurant in the Middle of a Pandemic

The construction was nearing completion and the staff was mostly hired. Equipment had all been purchased. After years of practice, really for the first time ever, we were holding our timeline and set to open the newest Skinny Pancake at Stowe Village on April 15th, 2020. And then the pandemic struck. 


Rather than open a new location in April, we closed ALL Skinny Pancake locations in late March and launched ShiftMeals to support the charitable food system. By the end of May, we were producing over 6000 meals a week. By the end of June, ShiftMeals had made more than 50,000 meals for Vermonters experiencing food insecurity. In doing so, we piloted a program and worked to help write the legislation for a $5,000,000 CARES ACT allocation for VT to fund restaurants around the State to assist with emergency feeding efforts.


In late May, with the encouragement of the Federal government and their Payroll Protection Program, we began reopening existing locations. We started with our smallest and simplest outlet in downtown Montpelier. We next reopened our flagship location on the Burlington waterfront. Days later we re-opened in Quechee, VT. With each of these openings, we worked through the mental gymnastics of how to operate a restaurant during a pandemic. In each case, we created stacks of new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and circulated them with the staff emphasizing the importance of their safety and the safety of the guests, and thereby the importance of employee perspective and feedback on these proposed SOPs.


The business world became a pineapple upside-down cake. The financial bottom line is temporarily no longer one of the ‘triple bottom lines’ advocated for by sustainable businesses. The health and safety of staff and guests come first, foremost, and last. Federal funding through the PPP allows us the ability to operate with negative margins for a few months as we try to piece together something that is primarily SAFE, secondarily, pleasant for everyone and finally, hopefully, profitable enough to be viable once the funding runs out. 


And yet, we still had this nearly complete restaurant in Stowe, VT sitting there empty…with all the existing overhead and a team full of people expecting to be employed. 


So we set to work in doing the seemingly unthinkable: ramping up to open a restaurant during a pandemic. It is one thing to bring a tenured team back together and introduce a series of new rules and regulations like the use of facemasks at all times, taking the temperature of each staff member upon arriving, and new reservation and contact tracing requirements. It is a whole different ball of wax to manage all of the above AND train a mostly new team from soup to nuts on how we do the most fundamental work of pouring, spinning, flipping, stuffing and folding of a crepe alongside the dance of running and bussing food while generally taking care of the crepe lovers eager to get out of their homes.


The first thing we do when we bring a new team together is go around in a circle and have everyone introduce themselves, their position with The Skinny Pancake and perhaps something about their personal life or passion that they want to share. Now that process happens muffled behind face masks, hiding everyone’s genuine smiles. Training in the kitchen typically happens with a member of our leadership team standing side by side with a new cook, supporting their learning process. Now that work will happen at a 6-foot distance with the experienced member of our team monitoring and preparing to jump on the line if the new cook is struggling. 


And the restaurant itself will remain empty of patrons…we will only be serving out on our patio. This is by far and away the prettiest location we have ever built. The aesthetics are awesome. The walkways are generously wide. We have a sweet bar that is adjacent to a gosh darn fireplace! It came out better than we ever would have hoped for…and yet, upon opening there won’t be a big party of people checking out all the nooks and crannies of the place…rather, we will be taking reservations and carefully limiting the total volume of guests. 


Truth be told, it’s not all bad. Our team here in Stowe will benefit from a slower-paced opening. With just 8 tables on our patio to start, the volume of food coming out of the kitchen should be much more manageable than a typical grand opening. And even though everyone has been wearing face masks the whole time, the COVID-era highlights the value of human connection that so many of us have sometimes taken for granted in the past. Our sense is that our team may end up tighter than other crews when we launched new locations. After all, their health and safety will depend on each other in a way we’ve never known before. 


Of course, we miss the old days. Foodservice is all about community…both amongst the staff and our guests. Restaurants are a place to gather. Bars are a place ‘where everybody knows your name.’ That connection is a big part of why we’re all in this hospitality business and why we’re looking forward to its return. 

In the meantime, we still serve the essential function of feeding people while now more than ever also providing a relaxing, safe alternative venue for guests with a vigilant commitment to ensuring our team’s safety. 


We have officially opened our new location in downtown Stowe VT amidst this pandemic. Please join us in welcoming the newest Skinny Pancake baby to the family. 


Stay safe and keep up the kindness to others, Vermont. Our gratitude for calling this brave little state home is beyond words. 


-Benjy Pancake

Steady Betty

Steady Betty

Friday December 9th 9:00pm

Live from Lake Street, Skinny Pancake

$5 Cover


Steady Betty is a 9-piece “all-star…rocksteady band” (Seven Days). The band pays homage to the classic late-1960s sounds of Jamaica. Rocksteady is a danceable, soulful successor to ska, and the roots of the reggae genre. Steady Betty’s Vermont shows have drawn dance-happy capacity crowds and enthusiasm from local press: “a stellar group of Vermont musicians …cool rocksteady tunes” (Brent Hallenbeck, Burlington Free Press); “Steady Betty… are quickly rising among the ranks of my favorite local acts” (Dan Bolles, 7Days).


Follow The Skinny Pancake on SoundCloud for previews of upcoming music!




Dan & The Wildfire

Dan and The Wildfire are noted for their mix of folk, rock and soulful, rootsy sounds, as well as their ability to write songs that are both honest and singable. Their well received second album, Smoke Signals, is available worldwide.

Performing tirelessly on the road and the radio, working hard to spread the musical wildfire far and wide, led to the band being nominated for the New England Music Awards‘ ‘Indie Act of the Year’ in 2013.



Crepes + Tunes = Love


Hey Folks, We’ve got an incredible music line up of music and events for the month of June…

In Hanover:

Madaila Benefit for Vital Communities

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The Skinny Pancake Hanover is super excited to bring one of Burlington’s biggest bands, Madaila, to the Upper Valley! Proceeds will go to Vital Communities, a local non-profit dedicated to making our region a better place to live, work, and play. Get your tickets now! $10 adv/ $12 door.


Bow Thayer Residency!


Every Wed in June 8:30-11pm

Website – Facebook

Bow Thayer’s music is always evolving—from luscious backwoods folk rock to the progressive explorations of his last album, Eden. Bow had the joy of introducing the Bojotar to fans and friends alike, including some of his musical peers and heroes such as Bela Fleck, Richard Thompson, The Steep Canyon Ramblers and Warren Haynes.


Bluegrass Brunch

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Every Sunday at Noon

Everyone knows – Sundays are for Brunch. But, adding live Bluegrass music from the best of local pickers!? Yes, that’s exactly what we’ve done. Come see for yourself!


In Burlington: 

Harsh Armadillo

Harsh Armadillo

Friday June 24th – $5

Harsh Armadillo is a 9-piece steamroller out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They combine funk and hip-hop roots to produce an original live sound that gets the party thumpin’—It’s all about bringing you deep into that pocket groove, and then spitting you back out with a melted face and burnt insoles. Come experience the love.



Can’t wait for the first Summervale on July 7? Join us on Tuesday, June 28 from 6 – 8 PM at Skinny Pancake for “Green Drinks” to get ready for a stellar Summervale 2016 season!
Summervale is the Intervale Center’s community celebration of local food, farms, family and friends. Summervale takes place every from July 7 – August 25 from 5:30-8 p.m. with live music, local food, Slow Food Vermont tastings, City Market activities, and more! Free admission (donations gratefully accepted), with food and drinks for sale from 13 local vendors including Skinny Pancake and Citizen Cider.
All Summervale proceeds benefit the Intervale Center’s work strengthening community food systems in Vermont. A non-profit since 1988, the Intervale Center believes that good food can change the world.  They manage 350 acres of land for sustainable agriculture, conservation and recreation in the heart of Burlington;  work statewide to help farmers strengthen their businesses; protect Vermont’s water quality by planting 20,000 native trees across the state each year; and ensure that anyone who wants delicious, fresh local food can access it.

New events posted all the time!

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View our Full Music Calendar on our website

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Jason Lee (Montpelier)

Jason has been hitting the pavement hard in 2015 and has performed over 60 shows in various haunts and hollows around Vermont. His style of Americana emphasizes his singing voice, which scrapes the dusty earth one moment and soars into the heavens the next. Occasional harmonica solos infiltrate his rhythmic guitar playing and singing.

Jason Lee (Montpelier)

Jason has been hitting the pavement hard in 2015 and has performed over 60 shows in various haunts and hollows around Vermont. His style of Americana emphasizes his singing voice, which scrapes the dusty earth one moment and soars into the heavens the next. Occasional harmonica solos infiltrate his rhythmic guitar playing and singing.

Jason Lee (Montpelier)

Jason has been hitting the pavement hard in 2015 and has performed over 60 shows in various haunts and hollows around Vermont. His style of Americana emphasizes his singing voice, which scrapes the dusty earth one moment and soars into the heavens the next. Occasional harmonica solos infiltrate his rhythmic guitar playing and singing.