August 20, 2020 / by Keith Gordon
NoMad Business Adapts and Succeeds: La Pecora Bianca
How a NoMad business owner adapts and succeeds in these rapidly evolving times is informative and inspiring. We spoke to a number of business owners with offices in NoMad who are successfully weathering the challenges of business today. They shared, their approach, philosophy, and insights.
In this series of articles, we hear from a variety of successful business leaders across diverse fields. Some of their efforts are industry-specific, but most of their winning approach can be applied to any business.
Among these successful business leaders, we spoke to Mark Barak of La Pecora Bianca.
Mark Barak opened La Pecora Bianca in NoMad in 2015 with a mission to “share the joy of Italian food and celebrate human connection.” In March of 2020, the popular restaurant faced a global pandemic that hit businesses hard – especially restaurants – and made that human connection much harder.
Thankfully, La Pecora Bianca is again serving delicious Italian fare from its NoMad location at 26th and Broadway. You wonder how a NoMad business owner like Barak succeeds through these unforeseen challenges? Thoughtfully, strategically, and with innovation and optimism.
When discussing what actions Barak has taken to ensure success through this difficult time, he highlights the importance of safety, location, and continuing to do what you do best.
Make People Feel Safe
Barak strongly believes the key to a stable business is to have people feel safe and have a good experience. If they don’t, they won’t come back. He emphasizes how important it is that people feel safe and points out that this includes both customers and staff.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Barak has taken the Governor’s guidelines seriously – “they made sense,” he asserts. He made sure to not only follow New York’s guidelines, but to exceed them.
In La Pecora Bianca’s current outdoor setup, which now flows from the restaurant’s sidewalk out onto Broadway, tables are truly spaced 6+ feet apart.
The restaurant, in fact, exceeds guidelines with thoughtful, hospitable touches that let customers know they are in good hands. For example, every patron is given a bag to place their mask in while dining.
Customer feedback has been resoundingly positive. When guests say, “This is a place that has really adapted well,” “I feel safe eating here,” and “The servers are sensitive and attentive,” Barak knows the efforts are working. At this moment in time, he is most proud of the thoughtful safety his establishment offers.
Do What You Do Best – Offer Great Food and Attentive Service
During tumultuous times, as owners attend to new challenges and guidelines, it’s easy to lose sight of core business strengths. Barak has never lost sight of why his restaurants are so popular – they offer great food and service.
However, Barak points out that as our world changes, it’s important for restaurants to evolve the idea of hospitality. In order to ensure the safety of his staff and patrons, hosts and servers may need to be a little less flexible if guests are pushing the parameters of safety. Staff who have instinctively accommodated guest’s desires have had to modulate from simply saying yes, to guiding a guest to what is safe and meets guidelines. This is a new facet of attentive hospitality and truly good service.
Location, Location, Location
Barak admits that La Pecora Bianca’s NoMad location, which has allowed the restaurant to have almost the same number of outdoor tables as there are inside, has been lucky. Broadway between 25th Street and 28th Street has been designated an OpenStreet and is closed to vehicular traffic. He commends the city, the NoMad neighborhood, and the Flatiron BID for the closure of Broadway, which allowed La Pecora Bianca NoMad to bring back many more people than would have been possible otherwise.
Innovations and Efficiencies
Implementing innovation and efficiencies has been important as the restaurant adapts to changing times.
At Home Product and Delivery Packages
When restaurants were unable to serve in person, Barak and his team developed innovative at-home offerings from La Pecora Bianca. They asked themselves what a successful at-home product might be that only they could offer – what dishes and experiences could they deliver?
The answer: House-Made Pasta Kits in Pronto and Professionale variations, which include everything needed to prepare a La Pecora Bianca-quality meal at home for two. Pronto Kits allow customers to choose from a variety of fresh pasta shapes and a selection of sauces to stir in at home. Professionale Kits come with pre-portioned fresh ingredients and pasta with simple preparation instructions so anyone can make their own pasta and sauce.
They also developed fun prepared packages available for pick up and delivery including Rosé Kinda Day (any 2 pastas + bottle of LPB Rosé) and Negroni Rigatoni Repeat (any 2 pastas + LPB bottled Negroni).
Operational efficiencies were also implemented to help the business run as leanly as possible. One such solution is to offer a single menu for lunch and dinner. This all-day menu alleviated the need to transition the kitchen and staff from a lunch menu to a dinner menu. Barak is quick to point out that guests are happy with the all-day menu, too.
Looking forward, Barak says the business will definitely continue to offer its Pasta Kits and Packages, which have been very well received. The all-day menu is something else he might consider continuing once these difficult times are in the past. This nimble evolution is a prime example of how a Nomad business succeeds though tough times and learns new ways of enhancing their business.
Prior to the pandemic, Barak always focused on appreciating and celebrating the staff. Now, he feels it’s even that much more important in managing morale. He observes that the staff is happy when they know the food and service are good and the restaurant is busy. With summer business doing well, everyone is happier.
As for keeping his own spirits up, he says, “I wouldn’t have gone into this business, if I didn’t have the stomach. And the optimism.”
Back to Business in NoMad
With summer dining in full swing, La Pecora Bianca is definitely busy. It’s nice to see how an iconic Nomad business like Barak’s succeeds. Barak says with warmth and gratitude in his voice, “the residents of NoMad have been amazing in supporting Le Pecora Bianca.” He goes on to describe the unique alchemy of NoMad’s denizens combined with those who work in the historic neighborhood and the tourists who enjoy its unique vibe. The NoMad business workers are coming back and he’s confident the tourists will be back, too. With smart management, innovative ideas, impeccable service, and of course, delicious food, La Pecora Bianca will be there to greet them.
Read other interviews with NoMad business owners like Robert Kaner of Robert Kaner Interior Design and Mitchell Goss of Zero-In