This Seattle restaurant is redesigning its entire business model in response to the coronavirus

‘There are two things that haven’t changed: People need to eat and people need to work.’

Canlis is one of Seattle’s top fine-dining restaurants, with a storied history and panoramic views of Lake Union. But Washington state — and King County in particular — are at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, so owners Mark and Brian Canlis knew they needed to rethink their business if they were going to stay afloat when fine dining is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

They decided that, in the face of a pandemic, they’d meet customers were they are: at home. Starting Monday, March 16, Canlis will close its dining room for the third time in its 69-year history. (It previously closed after JFK’s assassination and in response to a “horrific traffic accident” near the restaurant in 2015.) Instead, it will open three pop-up replacements: a bagel shop, a drive-through burger joint, and a “family meal” delivery service that includes a bottle of wine. All three will be available on weekdays.


The idea started at a team meeting on March 4, with a sense of fear hanging over the group. Tourism was already down in Seattle, and restaurants were taking a major hit. The restaurant was looking for a strategy to survive, according to co-owner Mark Canlis. But “there’s no hope in that,” he says. “You have to play as much offense as you do defense . . . So what would we look like from scratch? If my job is to feed and restore a city, then I have to do it inside the new rules.”


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