For a week my PR inbox has been filling with restaurants announcing increased sanitation and reassurance that they are following all the recommended steps for preventing the spread of COVID-19. There was even one that seemed to me, rather tone-deaf, which used math to downplay the entire threat.
I can’t imagine what it is like running a small business where folks tend to congregate. On one hand, there is the pressure to pay the bills and keep employees paychecks coming, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. You’ve invested in your employees, care about them and their families, and will need them to return after the crisis is over. Of course, you’ve invested in our restaurant too, and many will lose everything if it goes under.
On the other hand, you want to do your part to prevent the spread throughout our community and keep yourself and your staff safe. It’s not like you can close the doors and all the problems go away; restaurants can’t survive without selling food to cover overhead. It’s an impossible position with no good outcome.
From the announcements deluge, there are new ideas popping up every day, with restaurants joining together to help each other navigate this crisis. Some are switching to a delivery/curbside pickup model. Take this FaceBook posting from Magna Kusina:
“As promised, we are making an effort to continue to feed the community, we are offering our services in a new way. As this is fairly sudden and new to us, please bare with us as we navigate this new way of feeding you. We would like to help in any way we can and are offering take-out, delivery, and curbside pickup orders…minimizing physical contact without minimizing the emotional support we all need. On top of that, we would like to help families in meal planning for the weeks to come by stocking your fridge with nutritious and nourishing meals to last the week. Feel free to reach out to us via email or telephone. We are all in this together and together we will overcome. @ Magna Kusina”
More announcements are coming from all types and sizes of restaurants. From Xico, Xica Cantina:
With a heavy heart, I’ve decided that closing our dining rooms is the best thing we can do to keep our employees and community safe.
I’m monitoring the news, and hoping to re-open soon with a variety of delicious meals packaged TO GO for delivery and pick up, if not dining room service as soon as it seems safe.
I hope our decision to close helps us all get through this faster! I can speak for everyone on staff when I say that we look forward to seeing you all soon!
And from the ChefStable restaurant group via OregonLive,
ChefStable, the restaurant group behind some of Portland’s best-known restaurants, will close all 20 of its bars and restaurants for at least four weeks after service tonight, owner Kurt Huffman said Sunday.
The group has yet to see a dramatic dip in business. But owner Kurt Huffman and his individual partners at restaurants including Ox, St. Jack, XLB, Grassa, Lardo, the Icelandic hostel KEX and its attached restaurant Dottir and more, are concerned about the role busy restaurants are playing in the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Even national chains are paying attention. Starbucks is switching to a “To Go” model only; customers won’t be allowed to consume their food/beverages on store property. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but Grubhub has announced they will be deferring commission fees paid by restaurants:
With dine-in down as much as 75%, local restaurants need our support more than ever. As their partner, it is Grubhub’s responsibility to step up during this difficult time. So, we are deferring commission fees for impacted independent restaurants.
Delaying our revenue will increase the restaurant’s cash flow, allowing them to pay their employees and weather this difficult situation.
Another example of a business thinking outside the box comes from Shine Distillery, who has made national news for using a byproduct of distillation which would normally be thrown away to make hand sanitizer. Now it’s an idea being picked up all over the country:
In case you missed it and are looking for hand sanitizer, Shine Distillery & Grill on North Williams is offering hand cleaner made in house for free to the community (while supplies last).
I’m thinking if we drink more spirits, there will be more methyl-alcohol to make hand cleaner with, so we’d all better increase our cocktail consumption.
What can you, as a consumer do? It’s our time to step up. Support your favorite restaurants anyway you can. The purchase of gift certificates helps give businesses breathing room; so call your favorite spots and ask about purchasing some. I love the curbside pickup idea, and that, in many cases I can buy from the restaurant directly instead of going through the predatory delivery services. When you make purchases, tip generously; hourly workers are getting slammed by the reduced business. Keep an eye on press releases to see the creative ways restaurants are using to get their food on your tables.
As far as dining in? I have mixed feelings about that, but I have a sneaking suspicion the government may temporarily force a closure. Just this hour the C.D.C warned against gatherings of 50 or more people. As someone well over 60 with a compromised immune system, the idea of someone who, just doesn’t get it, bringing it into my sphere is a real risk. I’ve been sick with what I think is the flu for the last three weeks. The last thing I need is another virus for my body to deal with, so I’ve completely isolated myself. You may be 20 and able to shake this thing off, but for many of us, it would be a dangerous situation.
As always, you’ll be able to see all the press releases I’m getting on PDXFoodPress.com. Now get out there, but some gift certificates, pick up some food for the family and watch Netflix – the first episode of season two features Portland restaurant Han Oak. Well worth watching.