Want pizza? Or sushi? Maybe a salad bowl? How about chicken and waffles? A cheeseburger? Or only dessert, because — hey — it’s been that kind of day?
Starting Monday, when the downtown Wilmington food hall DECO reopens with a fancy new all-in-one take-out and delivery system, you can order something from every one of the stalls, pay on one ticket and have all the food delivered to the same address by one service.
DECO, short for Delaware Collective, also will welcome diners on site, with fewer tables inside but more tables outside on the sidewalk and in nearby parking spaces, said Rich Snyder, director of Food & Beverage for The Buccini/Pollin Group.
“We’re coming up on the best time of the year for outside dining,” Snyder said, “and of course outside dining is proven safer, and we’re going to encourage people if at all possible to be out there.”
But the star of the reopening is the new DECO On The Go order and delivery system. It will allow guests to have food delivered by Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. Pick-up orders, including alcohol, can be placed in a similar way through Toast, DECO’s point-of-service company.
Dine-in orders will be placed online directly through each stall on Toast, and guests will be notified via text when their order is ready.
DECO is a beta testing site for the system, Snyder said.
“We’re a guinea pig, but we feel like we’ve ironed out a lot of the kinks,” he said. “We’re excited to kick the tires on the new technology.”
Scott Stein, owner of Pizzeria Bardea in DECO thinks DECO On The Go system will be a game changer. His own family has trouble agreeing what to order when they want to have food delivered, said Stein, who also owns Bardea Food & Drink on Market Street.
“When people are looking for takeout, people want variety and the truth is not everybody is in the mood for ordering just pizza,” Stein said. “Now they have the option of ordering from any of the food establishments and getting one order and getting sushi or pizza or whatever they want.”
In addition to Pizzeria Bardea, DECO restaurants will include Connie’s Chicken & Waffles, Phubs, Al Chu’s Sushi, The Burger Joint, Stu & Sammy’s, and Spark’d Creative Pastry.
The owner of Stripp’d Juice decided not to renew after recently having a baby. Snyder said BPG is talking to Jason Aviles of The Green Box Kitchen about possibly taking the space, which would be Avile’s third site.
DECO won’t be a ghost kitchen — the trendy industry term for a place that only prepares food for delivery — because it will have places for diners to eat in.
“But if you live out in the suburbs some place and you want to find food for your kids and everybody’s kind of wanting something different,” Snyder said, “well, you have seven options here, and you can use DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats and get that food out to you with just one transaction.”
BPG is courting the North Wilmington suburbs with flyers about DECO On The Go sent to home and social media ads.
On Wednesday, staffers at Bardea and Al Chu’s were cleaning their stalls in anticipation of the opening.
“We cleaned everything up, doing a full detailing and full sanitizing of everything,” Stein said. After Bardea’s sold-out tomato dinner Thursday, Stein said the staff would turn its attention to preparing to open the pizzeria. The dough alone takes two days to make, Stein said.
“I don’t care if we serve two pizzas or 200 pizzas,” Stein said. “Just the fact that we’re back. We have to start somewhere and we’re excited to have the opportunity.”
DECO will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Snyder said Buccini/Pollin waited until now to reopen because so few workers are in downtown offices. Some companies are coming back this fall, he said, but many are waiting until 2021 to protect staffers from COVID-19. DECO, like other restaurants, closed in March when Gov. John Carney shut down the state to try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But more diners are returning, even if businesses are not.
Wilmington’s dine-in-the-streets program Curbside Wilmington is helping restaurants in three locations. The 800 block of Market Street shuts down on Friday nights and restaurants push tables into parking spaces. In Trolley Square, two blocks of Delaware Avenue close down so restaurants can do the same thing from Friday night through Sunday. And just last week, four restaurants started doing the same on Union Street.
Le Cavalier, a French bistro, just opened in the Green Room at the Hotel du Pont, Snyder pointed out, and people are coming to try it.
Even though Buccini/Pollin has gone ahead with DECO and Le Cavalier, it’s holding off on another planned venture.
Wilma’s, an arcade that was going to feature duckpin bowling, will not open for another year, Snyder said. The company didn’t think it made sense to open a business that depends on crowds of people until the pandemic dissipates.
Snyder said DECO has a low daily revenue goal for the DECO stalls of $500 each. If they make that, he said, it’s worth opening up, and Buccini/Pollin thinks the new ordering system will help.
Stein thinks the new ordering system will keep people coming back to Wilmington to eat.
“I think there’s a buzz back in the air about downtown Wilmington, especially about food,” Stein said. “We took a little beating with COVID, but it was in the air in the fall and the beginning of winter. I feel like with DECO reopening, that ought to extend the buzz.
“We’re super pumped. We can’t wait until Monday. We’re just looking to get back to normal soon.”