As lifelong chefs, restaurateurs, and food professionals, we’ve been fielding many questions about how to support our beloved restaurant industry during the unprecedented times in a COVID-19 world. The answers are nuanced and not exactly simple—but in a moment of limited operations and mandatory closures, the solutions begin with focusing on how to maintain customers. That’s where you come in.

 

Like you, we now make every meal at home with an ever-dwindling pantry. The simple market errand has turned into a haphazard, 6-foot-distance mask and glove ritual, where supply is unreliable and patience can be low. And though our careers are based in food and hospitality, we still struggle to create wholesome, delicious meals from odds and ends. Well, breathe easy, because there’s an answer to that unending question: “what’s for dinner?” It’s your local restaurant. Let’s be honest, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You want a break from the dinner-and-dishes hamster wheel. Restaurants are desperate for your patronage to stay afloat.

 

As we face the reality of a forever changing foodservice landscape, we thought it would be helpful to provide our top four ideas of how to support this fragile sector as a patron, neighbor and fellow small business owner. It has never been more apparent that our lives—as humans and entrepreneurs—are inextricably linked. Ordering from your favorite spot is a tremendous help right now. But there are also some other ways. Here’s how you can help the restaurant industry right now:

 

 

  1. Order “take away,” and do it as often as you can. Ordering takeout directly from the restaurant and going to pick it up ‘curbside’ is an excellent way to directly support your favorite restaurants. When you order takeout, you are paying them directly, same as if you were dining in. Many establishments have had to pivot due to COVID and have created robust online order systems, pre-packaged family meals and even unique grocery items that can be purchased ahead of time and then picked up outside the restaurant, in an organized fashion and at a safe distance.  Right now, finding ways to ‘go direct’ to the restaurant is more important than ever, as restaurants need cash flow to keep the lights on and pay their limited staff. This is also a great way to give yourself a little break from cooking so much, and an opportunity to re-establish family pizza night or taco tuesday!

 

  1. Donate. There are so many incredible organizations that need our support right now. Here are a few that we support and admire greatly.

 

    • Frontline Foods - Once again, the restaurant community proves how important the concept of hospitality truly is. With donations processed through Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, Frontline Foods pays local restaurants to prepare and deliver meals to hospital workers in their community. Donate through World Central Kitchen or sign up as a volunteer.

 

    • Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR) New York - One of the hardest hit communities in this pandemic has been the workers directly employed by foodservice establishments. To ensure these individuals and families are able to support themselves during mandatory closures, more than 50 of New York City’s eateries and restaurant groups—including influential names such as Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, David Chang’s Momofuku Group, and Tom Colicchio’s Crafted Hospitality—have formed an alliance to create Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR),  launching a restaurant employee relief fund. The fund, operating on a first-come-first-serve basis, will give grants of $500 to help food-service workers cover expenses such as rent, food, medicine, child care, and more.

 

    • The James Beard Industry Relief Fund - https://www.jamesbeard.org/relief - The JBF Industry Relief Fund provides critical financial assistance to small, independent restaurants. Due to COVID-19, these businesses have an immediate need for funds to cover operating expenses and keep from going out of business. This important restaurant partner not only helps to support them financially through the relief fund, but fights on their behalf on Capitol Hill, to advocate for the industry as a whole—in particular those small and independent restaurants that help make up the local fabric of our communities.

 

    • The Independent Restaurant Coalition is a U.S. trade group formed during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic by independent restaurateurs and chefs. During the pandemic, the group has lobbied local, state and federal governments for relief after their businesses were closed by government mandates to slow the spread of the virus. IRC proves that there are tangible ways your support can directly affect the lives of those food and beverage workers in your community. https://www.saverestaurants.com/

 

 

  1. Social support As we all know, we live in a world where content rules. The importance of social media has moved from a fun, quirky hobby to a vital part of the small business ecosystem. As a consumer and fellow business owner, your words, actions and perspective, matter. Use them for good and help promote your local restaurant community.  The power and influence of social media can be a simple tool we all can use to support our favorite haunts. When you do visit your favorite places and order take away or delivery, talk about it on social. Post photos of your food, tag the business and your local elected officials and use the hashtags #saverestaurants and #toosmalltofail.

 

  1. Be patient and empathetic - Restaurants are facing the unprecedented task of needing to drastically alter their businesses so they can serve us safely and efficiently. In an industry where carving out success from slim margins has always been the precedent, the razor’s edge is even sharper now. In restaurant culture, owners are very familiar with the understanding that no two days are alike and one never knows what awaits on the other side of the ‘open’ sign. But in a COVID world, waking up and watching the information change from 8am to 4pm daily, it's almost impossible to create operational strategies that stick. Our ask of everyone is to be patient and empathetic to this process, as we are all in this together, for the long haul.
 
 

About the authors:

Jason Rose is the co-founder and president of Full Heart Hospitality. He brings his deep passion for all things food and hospitality coupled with more than 20 years of industry experience to Full Heart. Jason has been an Executive Chef for over 15 years, including developing renowned menus at Truc in Boston, The Carneros Inn in Napa, Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco, Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma and Whole Foods Market. Capitalizing on his expertise in the restaurant industry, he became a Culinary Director, building a portfolio over the past decade for a broad range of hospitality groups including the Bi-Rite Family of businesses in San Francisco, Dean & Deluca worldwide, The Tyler Florence Group, The Delfina Restaurant Group, and the groundbreaking food incubator La Cocina. Branching out from all things culinary, he has a wealth of understanding in the development and management of manufacturing, grocery, prepared foods, systems development, labor optimization, and financial strategy.

Matt Jennings is the founder of Full Heart Hospitality, an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and author and life-long disciple of hospitality. Matt has had a number of his own culinary outposts, including the beloved Farmstead, Inc. group in Rhode Island and most recently, Townsman in Boston. After consulting for some clients in the Boston area and dedicating his life to wellness, Matt made the decision to pursue Full Heart’s vision full time. Matt is a five time James Beard Foundation finalist, has been recognized by the White House, Food & Wine Magazine, The New York Times, The Mother Nature Network and is a Certified Workplace Wellness Coach as of 2018. A focused creative, Matt has been cooking since he was 14 and he brings the same passion and zest for the business- that which helped make his own establishments so successful- to every Full Heart partnership. His expertise lies in culture creation, creative concepting, team enrichment and systems analysis.