Fine Dining Takeout Grows With The Times At NYC’s James
As a relationship-first restaurant, the menu at James is all about showcasing the respect and appreciation that owner Deborah Williamson has for her local farmers and suppliers. This Brooklyn restaurant’s seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine has a light, bright, and vegetable-centric style—but also features a grass-fed burger that’s become something of a celebrity to their diners.
For James, takeout had never been a priority until the pandemic, when they were required to pivot and regroup their fine dining style to something more portable—something Williamson saw as a necessity in order to support their community. “Our food became less formal, and we had to change our plating and how we presented food,” she says. “We had to make food that matched the times and what was going on in the world. “
When a regular of theirs recommended ChowNow’s online ordering as a solution, they switched from Caviar in June 2020 to give it a shot. It worked.
Finding The Right Partner
When choosing an online ordering partner, the James staff felt the tensions of being a “slow-food” fine dining restaurant in a fast-food environment. With so much care in every order, they were simply “not comfortable meeting the production demands or goals or speed required by the GrubHubs of the world.”
Williamson notes a surprising third-party app policy consumers might not be aware of: “They tell you that if your food isn’t exactly on time, you’ll get a fee assessed. It’s not a sound way of working.”
James had originally tried Caviar for online ordering but found that the financials didn’t work for them. After the switch, Williamson said that ChowNow “eliminated the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out a system that would make it from a production and financial standpoint.”
Even better, with ChowNow, they found a working style that felt “more like a relationship and a partnership.”
Realizing the Benefits
In their first year on ChowNow, James made over $400,000 in commission-free sales. They’re currently approaching 7,500 orders across their ChowNow Direct and ChowNow Marketplace ordering.
Williamson enjoys that ChowNow’s platform is well-organized and seamless to use. “I don’t have to think about it too much,” she says. “Our guests love it, and I love it too–I’m a huge fan.”
In addition to their financial wins, James also felt an operational lift after switching to ChowNow. ChowNow synced smoothly with their existing processes—allowing them to refocus on what they already excel at. The staff benefitted from the convenience of POS integration and menu management, and found that their work became easy and streamlined.
Williamson explained, “ChowNow let us realign our food so we could work in the context that we wanted to work, and we could make the margins that we needed to make while still crafting beautiful food presented gorgeously.”
Serving the Community
In addition to their takeout-optimized fine dining menu, their online ordering includes pantry items like coffee, tea, and gourmet canned goods, plus curated items of the trade like linen aprons and cocktail shakers. This all-encompassing menu reflects their mission to be as helpful as possible. Williamson says, “I like that James can be there as a part of the community, feeding people to the best of our ability. We are trying to stay flexible.”
“We have long-term relationships with guests,” she continues, “and we can execute in the way that we want. ChowNow allows us to do that, and now I don’t even think twice about it. I have confidence that we are being represented well by ChowNow.”
“ChowNow has a good business model and is community-minded,” Williamson says. “It feels reciprocal, like we are growing together.”