Community
How We’re Supporting Our Local Restaurants During the Shutdown
Restaurants are hurting right now. Here’s what our staffers are doing to help.
03-21-2020
Lauren Savoie
Lauren Savoie

This is undeniably a tough time for millions of Americans as we collectively navigate work, school, and business closures across the country. Particularly hard hit are small businesses like restaurants and the service industry workers who staff them, many of whom rely on tips for wages. Even under the best of circumstances, restaurants typically operate at slim margins, but month-long (or even longer) closures like the ones we’re facing now can be devastating to restaurant owners and staffers. 

While we’re big believers in home cooking, restaurants are a vital part of the food community. They’re places where we connect with loved ones or unwind after a long day, where we go to celebrate milestones and important life events, and where we derive inspiration for some of our favorite home-cooked meals. 

As food people—and in many cases, restaurant-industry veterans—it’s vital to us that our favorite restaurants stay afloat during this tough time. Here are some ways we’re supporting our local restaurants, and how you can help support your favorite places, too:

1. Opting for takeout or delivery

In Boston, where most of our staff is based, restaurants have been required to close to diners, but are still allowed to offer takeout or delivery. If you feel comfortable, the most obvious way to continue to support your favorite places is by ordering-in. According to the FDA, takeout is generally considered safe, and restaurants and food delivery apps are taking extra precautions to keep everyone healthy. Apps like Grubhub and Uber Eats now allow you to specify “no contact” delivery, where delivery drivers leave the food at your door. Grubhub also recently suspended their convenience fees for independent restaurants, so a bigger portion of your bill is going directly to the restaurant.

2. Buying gift cards

If takeout isn’t in the cards for you right now, consider purchasing a gift card to your favorite restaurant to dine-in later. This can help mitigate some of the financial burden restaurants are facing immediately. Our staffers have purchased gift cards to favorite Boston-area restaurants, including Cutty’s, Waypoint, Chickadee, and Coppa. We’re also finding creative opportunities to opt for gift cards, like holding a company-wide spirit contest where the prizes were gift cards to a local restaurant of your choice. One friend even asked for restaurant gift cards in place of traditional birthday gifts this year. I’ve also found buying gift cards to be a surprising way to help lift my spirits and give myself something to look forward to in the future.

3. Outfitting ourselves in merch

We love to rep our favorite restaurants, so the extra time at home has been a good opportunity to stock up on swag from our fave places. We can’t wait to stroll into the office wearing this “oysters” sweatshirt from Island Creek or these tees from Tandem Coffee Roasters. We’re also coveting totes and tees from Rebel Rebel, mugs and magazines from Juliet, and this tote bag that does exactly what it claims to do from Mamaleh’s. Food writer Helen Rosner has been keeping a running list on her Instagram stories of restaurants around the country offering merch during this time and Eater came out with this pretty comprehensive list for restaurants in the Boston area, but it’s also worth checking the websites of your favorite restaurants to see what’s on offer.

4. Following on social media

A low-lift way to support any local small business is by showing them some love on social media. Whether it’s a shout-out, a positive review, or even just a follow or like, any support can be helpful. As restaurants continue to think up creative solutions to weathering the shutdown, following them on social media can also be a great way to stay on top of special offers. Through social media, we’ve found out about oysters on wholesale from Island Creek, free ice cream delivery from Honeycomb, curbside fresh pasta from Dave’s, and on-the-go flour from Elmendorf Baking Supplies. Plus, you’ll be the first to know when reservations open up again.

5. Donating to nonprofits that support restaurant workers

Despite these efforts, there are a lot of restaurant workers going unpaid or who have lost their jobs during this time; many of them are our family and friends. Organizations like One Fair Wage, the Greg Hill Foundation Restaurant Strong Fund, and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation have started funds to provide some relief to servers, cooks, and cleaners durings this tough time. Since I’m not commuting, it seemed logical to donate what I would normally spend on transportation this month to those who don’t have the opportunity to work from home.

6. Calling our representatives

There's a chance that the money we're spending at these restaurants will make a difference, but the situation is now dire enough that independent business owners are calling on political leaders to pass legislation that will help ease the financial burdens being placed on them and the workers. Many ATK employees have taken the cue from restaurant folks around the country and called the Capitol to request that independent businesses be part of the federal stimulus plan.