Farmers Restaurant Group morphs into full-fledged e-commerce market and grocer

Here’s what the site looks like. (Courtesy Farmers Restaurant Group)

Farmers Restaurant Group, which opened its first restaurant Founding Farmers on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House in 2008, has gone one step further than takeout, delivery and selling on-site staples.

It has rolled out a completely online retail market and grocer with delivery, called Founding Farmers Market.

It is using its restaurants as fulfillment and delivery centers, and so far has been able to bring back 175 of its nearly 1,100 employees who were furloughed when restaurants were ordered closed to inside dining because of the coronavirus outbreak.

So far, Founding Farmers in Potomac, Maryland, and Founding Farmers in Tyson, Virginia, are online, with limited delivery areas.

Founding Farmers at Virginia’s Reston Station will start taking online orders and delivering them later this week. Farmers & Distillers in the District will join the online grocery and market delivery next week.

It will continue bringing employees back on the payroll as other restaurants begin the online service.

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The websites feature more than 500 items, including produce, meats, bakery items, prepared foods and pantry staples.

“We had to make the decision of do we just buckle, or do we stay in the fight and figure out what’s going to work and what our communities needed. My team worked really rapidly and incredibly fast to spin up this whole market and grocery,” Dan Simons, co-founder of Founding Farmers told WTOP.

Founding Farmers worked with Arlington, Virginia-based restaurant e-commerce platform developer GoTab to get the sites up and running in a matter of weeks. It also worked quickly to figure out pricing, labeling, staffing, financing and safety and sanitation practices.

Founding Farmers’ Simons and co-founder Michael Vucurevich have been among the D.C. area’s most successful restaurateurs, having expanded their business to four locations in the District, two in Northern Virginia, one in Maryland and one in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

The success came to a halt for Founding Farmers and every other restaurant when COVID-19 effectively eliminated normal business operations.

Simons has two thoughts about what the D.C. restaurant scene will look like in three months, or six months or a year from now.

“I think it looks really different. I am worried about it. A lot of restaurants won’t survive,” he said.

“And in some sense I am optimistic because this industry in D.C. is full of independent restaurants, incredibly hardworking people, resilient chefs and operators and entrepreneurs. So I know we will come out on the other side of this.”

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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