With restaurants struggling as they’re forced to adjust to the new restrictions in place to fight COVID-19, you, like us, are probably wondering “How can I help?”
There are almost too many options about where to put your dollars to aid struggling foodservice locations. You can buy gift cards, virtually tip your bartender, or donate to relief funds. For places that are still open, you can also order takeout or delivery, either from the restaurant themselves or through a third-party site like DoorDash or Grubhub.
So where’s the best place to put your dollars? That’s the question I posed over the phone this week to Vanessa Sink, Media Relations Director of the National Restaurant Association. According to Sink, the answer is simple: buy a meal.
“Restaurants still want to cook for us,” Sink said. “They’re safe, and they’re there to make sure that we’re getting good food and enjoying it.” If you can, order pick-up or for delivery directly through the restaurant. That way, they don’t have to pay super-high fees to third-party delivery services, which, despite their claims, are not cutting restaurants much slack right now.
Restaurants are trying desperately to get the word out about the importance of ordering to-go meals, while we’re still permitted to do so. Foodservice establishments have actually banded together to launch a new initiative called The Great American Takeout (#TheGreatAmericanTakeout on Twitter) to motivate people to order more to-go meals from their local restaurants. It’s launching today.
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable ordering takeout or delivery from restaurants at this time. And that’s okay. “We support whatever people can do,” Sink said. You can still donate to relief funds for restaurant workers and bartenders — there’s a comprehensive list right here. You can follow the New Yorker’s Helen Rosner’s advice and call your elected officials to demand government relief for restaurants and foodservice workers. If your favorite restaurants are selling gift cards, you can buy one for when this all blows over (but be aware there’s always a risk that the restaurant won’t return to full service).
Or you can see how chefs are getting creative in your area. In Seattle Eric Rivera is offering the sale of pantry items made in his restaurant as well as pick-up meals. Celebrity chef Sean Brock is doing live, private cooking classes. Famed restauranteur Hugh Acheson is offering contracts to come and cook at your house when the COVID-19 quarantine period is over.
Finally, no matter what you do, tip well. Hopefully together we can help more restaurants come out the other side.