The government must help
Also: makeshift markets, wine cellars, and relief funds
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.
days have felt like years for each of us… but what’s clear is that we could be on the brink of something graver than we could have imagined even last week. we call on the federal govt and this country to act on a national level. we do not have time and progressive action is not the right course.
we are amongst the largest private employer in the country. millions of people and in turn their families are losing their livelihoods. for how long is anyone’s guess. the following is a start for triage: ~ most of us pay business interruption insurance which we are being told only covers a physical event; this pandemic is the exact black swan event out of our control we believed we were being protected against so confirming coverage is critical
~ suspension of sales and payroll tax full stop
~ rent relief across the board, free rent plus shifting to percentage of sales rent at least until year end; many of us have landlords unwilling to negotiate or compromise without federal intervention, sadly the norm not the exception
we are not a nationally organized industry like so many others, but it’s clear we cannot do this on our own, one by one. to every influencer who loves f+b, please use your platform to share and elevate this ~ this is the content that needs to be spread right now.
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.
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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 HOME@chefcollectivenyc.com 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”).
Eater put together a list of relief funds and so did TASTE. These posts are being updated in real-time.
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.
If you’re into Some Meals Considered, tweet about it to spread the word!
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Great work, Emily. I really appreciate you pulling this together so we are all more aware. Thank you.