kō•än Grocery Service Delivers the Goods

Groceries and pantry staples are available through kō•än's new online grocery delivery service.

The artfully serene dining room at kō•än is dark these days, but there’s still plenty of activity at the Cary restaurant. Staff are busy filling takeout orders, assembling meal kits and packing groceries to be delivered to nearby homes.

Known for its upscale menu inspired by dishes from Southeast Asia, kō•än had to pivot quickly after March 17, when N.C. restaurants were barred from offering sit-down meal service. 

“That Tuesday and Wednesday were really rough for us,” said executive chef Drew Smith. 

Drew Smith, kō•än executive chef. Photo by Cara Grace Powell, f8 Photo Studios

His team had already discussed adding delivery and carry-out service, but there was no way they could recoup the lost income. After a day that included laying off most of his staff, Smith was shopping for dinner ingredients at a local grocery store and was shocked at the bare shelves. 

“Thursday morning, I woke up at four o’clock in the morning,” Smith said. “I was like, I have all this food in my coolers right now. All of our purveyors, all these people that bring us meat, produce, fish, their income vanished overnight as well.”

“It came out of the blue. It woke me up in the morning.” 

By Friday, Smith had launched k•mart. The online grocery service connects home cooks with top-quality ingredients and, at the same time, supports the restaurant’s local suppliers. Delivery is free for those living within eight miles of the restaurant, or customers can pick up their groceries at the door.

“There’s a connection that needed to be made between the abundance of food that our purveyors had, and the people in our community that can’t find anything in the store,” Smith said. 

He’s been able to hire back a handful of servers as delivery drivers, working for tips, and Smith says customers have generously shown their appreciation 

“We’ve gotten up to almost 30-35 percent of what our sales were before all this happened,” he said. “So that’s pretty incredible.” 

Delivery is available for customers living within eight miles of the Cary restaurant. Those living farther away can pick their order up at the door.

Grocery staples like milk, produce and meat are available, sourced from kō•än suppliers Simply Fresh, U.S. Foods and Papasonn Produce. Specialty items like gourmet mushrooms from Apex-based Fox Farm & Forage, can also be ordered.

“Owner Amy Fox is a friend of mine, and she didn’t stop production,” Smith said. “A lot of this was to buy products from her, and then we repackage it and offer it to the community. That way, we’re putting some money back in her pocket.”

Besides the basics, grocery patrons can order goodies from the kō•än kitchen like house-made banana bread, spicy mayonnaise, hummus and ready-to-bake cookie dough.

“Chef Francisco Almaguer has an unreal chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie dough that he can’t seem to make fast enough,” Smith said. “Also, our Thai red curry base, which is basically a red curry sauce that we use on one of our top selling entrees, is great to use at home with rice, fish or chicken.”

For those who want to bypass the food planning and prep, meal kits allow diners to create a restaurant-worthy meal in their own kitchen. The best-selling Korean Barbecue Bowl includes house-made pickles, kimchi, bulgogi beef and egg, and it’s served with rice and gochujang, a Korean red pepper sauce.

“All you have to do is reheat the rice in the microwave, get a pan hot, throw the beef in there, and your dinner is good to go,” Smith said.


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