How to Support Restaurants in a Pandemic World

As I’m sure many of you can relate, one of the things I miss the most from the pre-pandemic world is an intimate dining experience in a fun new restaurant, surrounded by some of my favorite people. While that may not be totally possible at the moment, there are still a ton of ways you can (and should!) be supporting some of your favorite restaurants right now as often as you can. The restaurant industry has taken a huge hit over the last year, and supporting your favorite restaurants is a small way to help them keep their doors open. While we’re all eager to order our fave restaurant eats, not every form of support is equal. Here are some things I try to keep in mind when I support my favorite restaurants:

1. You can show your support without dining in

Outdoor (and even indoor) dining is open in most places across the US, and it can be a great way to get you and yours out to eat and supporting your favorite restaurant. But before you dine, consider if sitting on a street-side table is worth the risk; dining is an inherently intimate experience, which also means that in pandemic times it is an inherently risky experience. Be sure to weigh the risks and consider the current COVIC rates in your area before going out to dine and carefully select who you will be dining with (hopefully a member of your household).

2. If you do dine in, don’t be a dick

It should go without saying that if you do decide to dine in, be sure to bring your best table manners with you. For many restaurants, COVID can mean longer wait times, shorter menus, and thinly-spread staff. From my experience as a server this past summer, it also means that some customers will use dining out as an excuse to channel all of their discontent toward the person delivering their entree. In short, don’t do this. Understand that this pandemic causes a lot of difficulties, and they don’t end with you. Make an extra effort to be patient and respectful toward your server and don’t freak out if your food takes longer than expected or your favorite item is no longer on the menu. More importantly, if you do dine in, TIP! And tip well. Your servers are working hard and they make less than minimum wage. With less foot traffic in restaurants, servers can struggle even more to earn enough in tips for a livable wage. Acknowledge the risk you are inviting by dining in and tip!!! Also, take steps to mitigate that risk as much as possible. Wear your mask when talking to your server. Sanitize your hands before and after your meal. Eat outdoors and as distanced as possible. It’s basic decency, people. If you can’t do these things, you don’t have to dine in!

3. Not all delivery is created equal

If you decide to skip dining in and order take-out or delivery, try to be conscious about where you’re ordering from. Delivery apps like UberEats or DoorDash take a significant portion of every sale, so keep that in mind when you order. UberEats, Postmates, and Caviar are among the worst options, taking 30-40% of each sale. DoorDash is slightly better, taking only about 20%. Options like ChowNow charge a monthly fee starting at $99 instead, meaning the restaurant gets to keep more of the money from your meal. Plus, ordering from a service that charges a monthly fee helps the restaurant make back that fee, making it the best option in the long run. Not all delivery apps treat their drivers the same either- UberEats is notorious for underpaying their drivers, but there’s really no delivery app that pays drivers well. The best way to support your drivers is to have them leave your order at the door to minimize their exposure risk and to tip them well (and in cash if possible!!).

4. Order local and direct whenever possible

The best way to ensure the restaurant will get all of the profit is to order directly from their website. Always check if the restaurant you’re ordering from has their own delivery service and order directly from them whenever possible! And remember that your dollar will mean much more to a local business than it will to a chain. Be picky about your support and give it to restaurants you truly stand behind- give it to the kind of local establishments you’d hate to see close. They are the ones that need it the most.

5. Get creative in your support

Lastly, there are more ways to support a restaurant than just by ordering their food. Make a donation! Buy a friend a gift card! See if they sell any cool merchandise like t-shirts or mugs, and buy as many of those as you can! Every dollar of your support counts.

I can definitely not claim to have never ordered a Black Bean Quesarito on UberEats from the Taco Bell on the UES that definitely doesn’t need my money. But these are a few things I try to keep in mind whenever the craving for restaurant food strikes. We’re all doing our best here, and hopefully these tips help make your best a little better for everyone involved!

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