From the first time your parents took you out for a “fancy” dinner, on through to graduation celebrations, weddings, and surely all those special meals you’ve shared with friends and family that you’ll never forget, restaurants have provided the setting for a wide, and visceral swath of our lives.
Now, shockingly, as if we were suddenly thrust into the middle of a terrifying dystopian novel, an insidious virus has forced nearly the entire American restaurant industry to grind to a halt in order to literally save our lives. Some will not survive several weeks without income, and many just barely.
However, you need not stand idly by—there are two big things you can do to help. First, consider how many times in a normal week you would be eating out, and then order takeout from a favorite restaurant as if you were actually planning to dine there…and maybe throw in an extra night of doing so, if you can. But more importantly, go to restaurants’ websites and buy gift certificates—as many as you possibly can.
“Purchasing gift certificates from any of your favorite restaurants, is one of the best ways to support local business,” urges Nathalie Hudson, Co-Owner of Dante in NYC’s West Village, winner of the 2019 World’s Best Bar award. “At Dante we are continuing to pay the wages of our core team and also the health care for all of our employees…every little bit helps. Gift cards are a great way to inject a little cash flow into businesses which currently have none, and are doing everything that they can to look after and support their employees.”
So yes, buy them from your favorite little corner Indian or Chinese place; buy them from the trendy hotspots that you always hit up for an Instagrammable night out; and just buy them from anywhere that you can’t wait to return to once the coronavirus scare is over.
It can even even provide a welcome distraction from our harsh reality to start planning future nights out, while paying for them in advance, to show your support in these difficult times. Also, think of anyone who has a birthday coming up, or what your parents’ favorite restaurant is, or maybe an important client that you’d like to treat…and buy one for them, as well.
The restaurant industry has enriched our lives immeasurably, and they really, really need us to help them pull through—as it will likely be the hardest hit business in America.
As Chef Salil Mehta, of Michelin starred Laut and the newer Laut Singapura—both in the Flatiron—so succinctly puts it, “Dining bonds are a genius idea, as it allows the community to support their favorite restaurants, and allows restaurants to make the brave decision to shut down as they know business awaits.”
Best of all, it will give you the feeling of making a difference, during a crisis that has left so many feeling utterly powerless.
“Our focus should be on supporting each other and our community in a safe and proactive way,” says Executive Chef Randall DeFalco of Ama, which opened earlier this month at Long Island City’s Paper Factory, serving globally-inspired cuisine in an industrial chic space. “During tough times it is important to remain unified, and together we will get through this. When you can, support your local restaurants through purchasing take-out, delivery and gift vouchers, it will go a long way in helping our employees and business.”
But we cannot stress enough that patience is needed right now, as the sudden shift to delivery and take-out has created the expected logistical problems—with Grubhub, Postmates, and Doordash all being pushed to the limit. When you have a moment of feeling frustrated, remember that everything is being done to save lives, while also maintaining the connection between the restaurants and consumers.
Satoru Yasumatsu, Co-Owner of HALL and o.d.o by ODO, explicates it best: “It is challenging not only from the standpoint of absorbing increased delivery service fee, but also implementing internal procedure change. Additionally, we are working on communications with our customers in a calm manner and about sanitary measures we are taking to ensure safety. Though difficult, we have received some enquires from regulars offering their support, and their messages keep us hopeful to do better in near future when we come back.”
And rest assured, they will come back.