Madi Donnelly at the pick-up window at Salt 2.0, the new addition at the Litchfield Saltwater Grille. BZ photos

Like all restaurant owners during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brook Noel and Andy Stowers of the Litchfield Saltwater Grille have had to adjust and adapt in how they do business.

It’s the only way to keep the doors open and people employed.

In the case of the husband and wife team of Noel and Stowers, a little bit of creativity is going a long way as the pandemic plods on and dining habits change.

The Litchfield Saltwater Grille is now complemented by Salt 2.0, a takeout business operating from its own kitchen in the restaurant in Litchfield Commons. Salt 2.0 opened in October and has been a hit with the public as well as a lifesaver for the restaurant Noel and Stowers have owned since 2013 and have turned into one of Litchfield County’s top seafood destinations.

“Covid crippled us,” Noel said on Monday. “We were off to a great start in 2020 and on the way to a record year. Then all of a sudden…”

Time to get creative

Early in the pandemic, with the restaurant operating on takeout only, Noel and Stowers convened a staff meeting and brainstormed ways to expand the restaurant’s offerings and achieve sustainability.

“We talked about possibilities and it was Brook who suggested the idea,” employee Madi Donnelly said of the genesis of Salt 2.0. “Now, here we are.”

Noel, Donnelly and employee Maria Sok combined their skills to develop the Salt 2.0 concept, create a menu, and turn what was a small dining area into the kitchen where Salt 2.0’s extensive offerings are prepared.

“If not for Salt 2.0, I don’t know that we’d all still be working,” Donnelly said. “I’m so impressed with how Brook and Andy were willing to adapt. We set a goal and we hit it almost right away. People are showing that they love and want Salt 2.0.”

Second Salt 2.0 in the works

The endeavor is working so well that there is a plan to open a second Salt 2.0 in Torrington, according to Noel.

“It’s giving us an opportunity to grow,” she said. “I didn’t think we’d be this far along, but it has turned out to be an easy model to run and manage.”

Salt 2.0’s concept is simple: Fresh, fast, affordable food from a convenient location at a time when apprehension about indoor dining is high.

Indoor dining resumed at the Saltwater Grille in June and outdoor dining on the restaurant’s patio was popular through the summer and into the fall, but with restrictions on capacity in place and cold weather arriving, something needed to be done to ensure a stream of revenue that would get the restaurant through the pandemic.

“This is not something I would have planned on doing,” Noel said. “It’s just a response to what is going on in the restaurant industry.”

Maintaining staff was a priority, according to Noel, who said that without the success Salt 2.0 is enjoying, staff would have been let go.

What’s on the menu?

Salt 2.0’s menu features salad and grain bowls, sandwich wraps, homemade soups, and south of the border entrees such as taco salad, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and nachos. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available. Prices range from $8 to $15.

“There is something for everyone,” Noel said.

A highlight of the menu is the $8.49-plus build a bowl from a selection of rice, lettuce, spinach, vegetables, meet and fish toppings, and sauces and dressings. There is also a selection of alcoholic beverages, soda, water and cold tea.

Salt 2.0 is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Orders can be placed at salt20togo.com or can be placed at the pick-up window at the restaurant. Customers receive a text when their food is ready. Most orders are prepared in 10 minutes or less.

“It has been more popular than we thought it would be,” Noel said. “We were profitable by the second week. That’s when we realized we had created something viable.”