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Restaurant Survival: 'We're Scrambling To Change Our Business Model'

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - One year after it earned a rare Michelin Guide recommendation, the fine-dining restaurant called Canon has become essentially a drive-through.

canon cecchi with smoker
Canon executive chef Brad Cecchi with smoked turkeys

"It definitely feels like in the last two weeks I've aged seven years," said Canon executive chef Brad Cecchi. "Every day we're trying to figure out how to stay afloat and how to survive."

Canon shifted to curbside pickup from its online menu following Gov. Newsom's stay-at-home order, but Cecchi says even the drive-up business has dropped off in recent days.

"If we could break even, I think that's the best-case scenario at this point," he said.

The virus shutdown has forced restaurant operators to get creative.

READ ALSO: Sacramento Restaurant Donating All Of Its March Profits To Help Closed Eateries

To try to keep as many as its 29 employees working, Canon landed a contract with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to provide nearly 3,000 meals per week to seniors in 11 publicly-subsidized housing developments. And it's formed a coalition with four other fine-dining restaurants in Sacramento to package no-frills meals to families struggling to put food on the table. Canon, Mulvaney's, Allora, Camden and Binchoyaki call their partnership the "Family Meal" initiative.

"We're all in the same boat," said Canon owner Clay Nutting. "The whole community, from the farmers to our employees to us as small business owners to the people in need. It's really about trying to create a circular benefit."

Canon has drafted a guide for other restaurant operators who want to participate, and the Family Meal program is seeking donations to cover the cost of food, labor and packaging. A donation of $20 will feed a family of four.

Cecchi worries Sacramento's burgeoning restaurant scene may suffer a crippling blow from the coronavirus crisis saying, "Once this is over, the scary part for us is whether the customers will come back."

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