Each day is darker than the last for small businesses and the hospitality sector at large. Restaurants—and their 15 million-plus workers nationwide—need a ton of help, and the sad truth is that individuals can only do so much. Take it from Derek Thompson in The Atlantic:
There is only one solution to this problem: The public sector must step in and play consumer for several months, until the virus passes.
“The actual human beings who make up the hospitality industry simply will not be able to survive this disaster, and it is unconscionable that the people in charge, so far, seem willing to simply let them become casualties of the crisis,” writes Chris Crowley of Grub Street. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not entirely powerless. On Eater, Hillary Dixler Canavan puts matters starkly yet reiterates:
This is not to say that diners shouldn’t do their part immediately to help support these businesses. Order delivery while it’s still widely considered safe to do so; order more than needed to up the check average; tip generously; buy gift cards for future use; buy restaurant merch online; reschedule prepaid reservations rather than requesting refunds. If you have the money, consider stepping up like NBA players and personally transferring wealth directly to restaurant workers.
The Government Must Help
Leaders within the industry are speaking out emotionally and begging for action. Here’s Sean Feeney, co-founder of Grovehouse Hospitality (Lilia & Misi) on both the gravity of the situation and what he and his partner Missy Robbins are doing to provide some semblance of relief and hope for their teams—including an opportunity for employees to share in the restaurants’ profits once they’re allowed to re-open their doors again.
Camilla Marcus (west~bourne) asks us to spread the message. David Chang, who has taken his activism to Twitter, says call your representatives—because as Pete Wells makes note of, restaurants are in danger of being ignored.
Jeffrey Stein @JStein_WaPoSpecial federal relief now on table 4 following industries: -- Casinos -- Cruiselines -- Airlines -- Hotels -- Oil & gas (enacted) The next congressional package -- on which work began today -- will be where all this is expected to be fought out https://t.co/kbhv1NOlXy
So let’s raise our voices and call for bailouts. Simultaneously, we can help restaurants immediately by engaging with their latest efforts to stay afloat and put money into their staffs’ pockets.
Here are some of the more creative approaches I’ve seen today, from Anton’s “Dollar Menu” in favor of gratuity money to Guerrilla Tacos’ “Emergency Taco Kit,” which includes four rolls of toilet paper.
As NYTimes California restaurant critic Tejal Rao importantly points out, not all restaurants have a social presence. Let’s not forget about those mom-and-pops, which many of us frequent. As throughout the rest of the industry, the people who run them live to serve us and need our help—even if it’s just a dose of human interaction, the knowledge of our support.
Purchase Directly From Suppliers
A chef friend of mine tipped me off that Chef Collective NYC, a family-owned and operated business that no longer has restaurants to supply to, is going direct-to-consumer. They sell awesome cheeses plus eggs, milk, olive oil, and charcuterie; the pricing is lower than you’ll find in any store; and they’re delivering to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. I can assure you from the email I read (which I’m happy to forward) that they’re taking impeccable food safety and sanitization measures. Find their offerings HERE and call or text 646-481-2851 or email [email protected] to place an order (by 11 AM for same-day delivery).
Raid The Cellars!
New York State relaxed its rules on alcohol sales, which means you can now purchase wine directly from some of the city’s best cellars—and at retail price. How fun!
Two examples are The Four Horsemen (pick-up) and Frankies Spuntino (through Caviar). The amended law requires restaurants to sell at least one food item alongside booze, so be sure to grab a jar of Chef Nick Curtola’s granola from the former and a frozen Sicilian pie via the latter.
Industry & Employee Relief Funds
Food+Tech Connect created a collaborative Google sheet of resources and organizations providing support to those in need and is offering free job postings to anyone looking to employ people impacted by the pandemic (use code “coronavirusfoodjobs”).
Restaurant owners are setting up relief funds for their employees, including Grovehouse (Lilia & Misi), Bernie’s & Frankel’s, and Matter House (Estela, Cafe Altro Paradiso, & Flora Bar). Check social handles and websites to see if your favorite spots are doing this, too.
Be well, everyone. And if you see or have any updates, ideas, or ways to help, keep sending them my way. This fight is far from over.