For Richmonder Curtiss Stancil, the pandemic’s negative impact on his business turned out to be a good thing.
Faced with the temporary closure of his concession and catering business due the pandemic, Stancil did what many in food service did — he pivoted.
He took his decades of catering and concession experience and launched two new concepts — both virtual food halls under the umbrella A.M. Kitchen Company — and both focused on feeding people where they wanted to be — at home. One opened in Hatch Kitchen RVA in South Richmond in October and the second, the larger of the two, opened this month in Chesterfield County.
Through A.M. Kitchen in Chesterfield, diners can choose from any of five food concepts — Da’ Best Damn Breakfast (serving breakfast all day), Breakwich (breakfast sandwiches), Anniebell’s Famous Oven Fried Chicken (fried chicken), DJ’s Halfsmokes & Burgers (hot dogs and burger) and Orleans Beignets (beignets) — all available for pick up from the food hall at 9545 Amberdale Drive in Chesterfield, which is off Hull Street Road east of Courthouse Road. Or the food is available via delivery through every major third-party delivery service (UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub and more).
Any and all of the individual restaurant brands can be found under their individual names on the delivery sites — or they can found directly through A.M. Kitchen’s website at amkitchen.co.
For Richmond residents, the first three concepts — Da’ Best Damn Breakfast, Breakwich and Anniebell’s Famous Oven Fried Chicken — are the only ones available for delivery because of Hatch Kitchen’s structure as a shared space.
None of the businesses would’ve been possible without the pandemic, Stancil said.
“March 9 changed my life,” Stancil said. “We had to completely pivot our business. Out of every negative is a positive.”
That’s the date last year when he found out that the annual Jefferson Cup youth soccer tournament, which is held on weekends in March throughout the Richmond region, was canceled. Other events soon followed and Stancil realized he couldn’t operate his business as usual.
The virtual food hall idea was born.
Food halls — virtual or otherwise — have grown in popularity in the past year. A year ago, Richmond had none. Today, there are four — with at least one more on the way.
Only one was planned pre-pandemic, Ukrop’s Market Hall, an in-person food hall, which opened in December in Henrico County. Trolley Eats, also in Henrico, is a virtual food hall that opened the day after Ukrop’s. Like A.M. Kitchen, Trolley Eats functions as the umbrella name for multiple concepts, all of which can be found on the delivery sites.
Just as A.M. Kitchen was getting started in Hatch Kitchen in October, Hatch announced plans for its own food hall, Hatch Local, which is in the works in space at The Current mixed-use development that is under construction at 400 Hull St., in Manchester.
A food hall is one place where diners can choose from multiple cuisine or entree types. Food halls are basically fancy food courts.
Stancil predicts that the Richmond area will see more food halls opening in the coming months and years.
“This market is not going anywhere,” Stancil said. “Consumer behavior is changing so much. Restaurants of the future, they need to be prepared to have multiple concepts available for consumers.”
The option for delivery, too, isn’t going anywhere, Stancil said. But he’s also realistic that consumers will want to go out and dine one day, too.
That’s why he picked the Chesterfield location. Unlike Hatch Kitchen, the Amberdale Drive space is set up to be a full restaurant with 50 seats — and an optional patio. So come post-pandemic life, an in-person food hall could be in the cards for A.M. Kitchen.
By then, Stancil hopes, diners will have even more concepts to choose from.
He’s testing multiple other restaurant concepts now, including several featuring various cuisines from African counties, some national partnerships with other food makers and more baked good.
“One of the things we’re really focused on is building multicultural concepts,” he said. “The good thing is the flexibility on the brand development part. You can test something, change it, and test it again. I’ve been like a baby in a candy store.”
He’s also thinking of adding an A.M. Kitchen Company location in Henrico soon, now that he has Richmond and Chesterfield covered.
None of it would’ve been possible, Stancil reiterated, were it not for the pandemic.
“If I were not forced to change to survive, I would’ve never had these businesses,” he said “We’ve been very fortunate.”
A.M. Kitchen Company’s hours at both locations are Wednesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Find our more about all the concepts at amkitchen.co.