Lifting Up Local Restaurants

 

Support An Industry That Has Helped You Make Beautiful Memories

By Kayce Tiongson

 

 

It is Thursday night, and I have just waved goodbye to my student. “Do you have any special plans?” I had asked him before our lesson. “Stay at home,” he said. 

 

I miss going out. Not too long ago, when the weekend was near, my phone would ping as I received a message from a friend. Where to eat was always a part of the conversation. Links of new restaurants dotted our chat windows. I miss all the food talk and the hype about a new restaurant opening. Now restaurants are shut down; some are waiting for the lockdown to be lifted; others are permanently gone

 

Food has always been at the center of human interaction, from early morning cooking sessions with our moms to live sports games; there’s food, food, and more food! Restaurants were a place where memories were made, and surely, somewhere in the future, we will be booking reservations again. But for now, there are significant things that we can do to give our support, even if times are tough. 

 

 

Behind-the-scenes of a Restaurant’s Reopening 

From the perspective of a customer, it looks as though reopening a restaurant is the solution to saving the business, that as long as it runs again and food is served, everything would go back to normal. It’s not as simple as that. With social distancing being a priority now, restaurants need to follow strict measures to operate. Tables are set farther apart, and fewer customers are coming due to fear. Net profit in the food industry is around 5 to 10 percent, which fluctuates depending on restaurant type. With only 50 percent seating, it will be hard to make ends meet. The operation cost will also heighten as restaurants comply with the new normal: PPEs for the staff, hand sanitizers for both staff and diners, surface cleaning every 15 minutes, etc. 

 

The “New Normal” Is Not for Every Restaurant 

While it will be easier for establishments such as fast-food chains to adapt to takeout and delivery, not all restaurants are designed for the “new normal.” Where does fine dining belong in the time of COVID-19? Food is not only about the taste or the ingredients used to make a dish but also the overall experience, from being greeted by a waiter to having the last bite. Takeout food items are sufficient, but will they be able to replicate the experience of sitting in the ambiance of a beautifully lit restaurant and enjoying a dish that has been created with the magical touch of a chef? 

 

Jason Wang, CEO and president of Xi’an Famous Foods, explained why he chose not to follow what many restaurants are opting to do these days. He said on the podcast Special Sauce: “Whether we do takeout or delivery, it’s going to involve putting people on the line to do the work, and that’s a risk. It’s not going to help with the financial situation because our business won’t be able to be sustained just from those takeout orders. It’s a lose-lose situation. It really didn’t warrant the risk or try to chase after any benefits of that.”

 

The Domino Effect of Helping Out 

 

The magnitude of COVID-19’s impact on every industry can be compared to a tunnel with no end in sight. Food suppliers are grappling with the decrease of large orders such as those of universities because students are studying at home. CEO and founder of Red’s Best, Jared Auerbach, said that he has laid off almost his entire company. “It would be devastating for us,” he said of the possibility of students not returning to school by fall. Don Thibodeau, president of Green Thumb Farms, expressed his concern about the surplus of potatoes that his farm has accrued. “The french fry market, either fresh or frozen, has come to a standstill,” he explained. 

 

When we support restaurants, we not only try to keep the business afloat, but we help every other part of the food industry: from servers to local food suppliers. 

 

How 

With COVID-19 still spreading around the world, most diners would rather stay at home and cook their meals. As several establishments begin to reopen, there are ways for us to contribute to our favorite restaurants:

 

  1. Takeout orders. Many food businesses are opting for takeout and delivery to serve their customers. How about having your favorite food delivered to your doorstep? Reward yourself with food — you’ve been working hard, and you surely deserve a treat. 
  2. Give a tip. The simple gesture of sharing what we have, especially at this time, can be so helpful to someone. 
  3. The power of social media. Share a photo of your takeout order. Keep an eye out for your favorite restaurant’s newest menu (some have simplified options for the time being) and try it. Your eagerness to share the happiness you received from good food can reach a broader circle of people, and great things happen when people work together.
  4. Purchase coupons, gift cards, and cookbooks
  5. More social media! Post throwback pictures of your food adventures. Letting the people behind our favorite restaurants know that we miss gathering around and choosing from their menu can be a huge energy source for them. 
  6. Join food-centric movements like World Central Kitchen. #ChefsForAmerica

 

It will take some time — hopefully not too long — before we can dine out again the way we’ve always done. Restaurants were ready to have us in their dining halls on our birthdays, end-of-year parties, and romantic dates. We regard these places and all of those memories dearly, and we are going to hold on until our next food trip. For now, let’s reach out and help. 

 

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