Serving Meals to Fronline Workers: Q&A with Owner Jenn Wirtz of Der Braumeister



In April, Cleveland restaurant Der Braumeister began serving meals to frontline workers battling against COVID-19. 

The West Park Times reached out to third-generation owner Jenn Wirtz of Der Braumeister to learn more.. 

Q: What does it mean to a frontline worker when they receive a home cooked or quality, comforting meal? Can you go into detail on some of the feedback you received from those workers? 

A: The caregivers working on the front lines of this crisis are working overtime, so thinking about preparing food for their families when they get home is the last thing they would want to deal with. We were able to provide premium comfort food for these hard workers, and their families, during a time they needed it most- and the feedback has been incredible. We’ve received countless voicemails and messages online at how much they’re enjoying our food and how thankful they are to be receiving it. It’s important to note, though, that this paid program wouldn’t be possible had the Clinic not taken the initiative to create it. An official quote from the Clinic regarding the program:

“The program is funded through donations to our COVID-19 Response Fund, which is directed toward caregiver support programs and is part of Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 Community Response Campaign. We are inspired by the overwhelming generosity of our donors and are grateful for the positive impact of the program on our caregivers and our community,” says Lara Kalafatis, chair of the Philanthropy Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

Q: What have you learned throughout this experience? How has it changed you as a person and maybe even the way you run your restaurant moving forward? 

A: It is strange to think that all of this has happened in almost three short months but where we were back then and where we are now seems like night and day. Part of the reason we’ve been able to keep our heads above water was our ability to pivot immediately: providing beer/food takeout; buying a new POS system that allows for online ordering; pushing out valuable and relevant content on social (media) to engage and communicate with our customers, etc. I don’t think anyone will come out of this pandemic unchanged, myself included.  We know things aren’t going back to “normal” (for Der Brau) and honestly, I think that’s a good thing. We’ve been around a long time for a reason. But this crisis has inspired me to really challenge our old ways. And we’re tired, we’re stressed, we’re anxious- but at the same time- we’re really hopeful and excited for a refresh. 

Q: What were some challenges you initially faced when trying to start doing this? I imagine there might have been some “learning curve” moments as COVID-19 is a new thing for everybody. Can you discuss some of those challenges and what you did to solve them? 

A: The hardest challenge was, and continues to be, really not knowing what the “right” answers are. Everything about this is unprecedented and no one really knows what to do. We are all making fast decisions based on our gut or our capabilities and that can be really scary. It feels like trying to walk a tightrope with a blindfold on. We are forced to make decisions that we know might not be the most popular or well received, or that might negatively impact people. And we can’t predict how it will impact our future, but we have to keep making those decisions and trust ourselves. 

Q: Do you have any numbers as far as meals per-day or people per-day/month you served?

A: For the Clinic program during the month of May, we were delivering about 1,200 family four-pack meals/week to the surrounding hospitals, so close to serving 20,000 individuals per month. 

Q: How were your interactions with the frontline workers in general? Were they typically trying to ‘stop and take a moment’ from their busy day or did they generally have to rush through their meals and ‘downtime’ activities as well? 

A: There actually wasn’t much interaction at all. We delivered the meals, which were stored in refrigerated trucks outside of the hospital, so the caregivers would stop by the trucks after their shifts to pick up the meals to take home with them. 

Q: Were there other restaurants that you directly worked with or collaborated with when planning to serve frontline workers and/or in executing some sort of a plan? 

A: My mom and I did all of the menu planning ourselves, based on food and product availability. And I made every attempt possible to purchase our products and food from local businesses. We’ve purchased from Ohio City Pasta, Stone Oven Wholesale Bakery, Taste of Europe spice shop, Rainbow Farms, Dohar Meats, Dee Jays Custom Butchering, Reinecker’s Bakery, Czuchraj Meats, Raddell’s sausage… to name a few. 

Q: When can everyone in West Park and beyond expect their beloved Der Brau to open back up!? We love you! What are some things you are considering for Der Brau operations only, (i.e. welcoming patrons back, best practices) moving forward? 

A: We recently made the decision to remain closed to the public through the month of May and June. Here is our official statement:

Dear Friends & Customers, 

We have missed everyone so much over the past few weeks, and we are really looking forward to the day we can see you all again!

After thoughtful consideration we have made the decision to remain closed to the public through the end of May and for the month of June. 

We need to take time to think through how we can best move forward, and adhere to the new safety guidelines while hopefully preserving the best parts of our restaurant that make us who we are. We are looking at this as an opportunity to refresh and renew- and we are confident that when we open back up- we will be stronger- and better- than ever before.

This was a tough decision, but we know it was the right one for us. We’re so happy for our fellow restaurateurs who have taken the time necessary to open back up the right way- and we can’t wait to join them!

We promise to keep you posted on everything we’re doing, and we will continue to support our fellow community and business owners every chance we get. 

In the meantime, raise one for us, and we’ll see you all soon. #Prost.