10 ways to support your local restaurants

Lifestyle

Launched in Chicago in March 2020 by Sean Lynch and Jenn Galdes, Dining at a Distance is a burgeoning list of restaurants that are open for takeout, delivery or curbside pick-up as venues close across the country.

In a time of historical uncertainty, virtual dining is an enterprising way of helping the hospitality industry while keeping us fed with some of the best food on the planet. The effort has expanded to more than a dozen cities from Boston and Buffalo to Washington D.C. and Wilmington, North Carolina. Berlin, Germany has hopped on and Los Angeles, Portland and the Twin Cities are right behind.

Peruse the list and choose what you’re feeling, be it pizza or empathy. Then, consider some of the additional ways you can still say, “Cheers!”

Takeout, delivery, curbside service

You can still enjoy your favorite dishes via takeout and delivery — Photo courtesy of Urbanbelly

Think about your favorite restaurants or even one you’ve been planning to try. Check websites to see what they’re offering for takeout, delivery or curbside service. Many restaurants have initiated family-style dinner packages and increased their delivery range in partnership with services like DoorDash and GrubHub. Some are catering to those who don’t want to give up their weekend brunch habit.

Go to Dining at a Distance for an aggregate list of restaurant offerings in your city. Generously tip your delivery person, whether you’re getting a burger and fries or short ribs and pommes frites. You may just see your favorite barista or waitperson delivering your food to stay employed. They’re helping you live your best quarantined life.

Get spirited

Daisies Bloody Mary kit with CH Peppercorn VodkaDaisies Bloody Mary kit with CH Peppercorn Vodka — Photo courtesy of Kat Levitt

Moisten the pipes and assuage anxiety with spirits. For example, Chicago’s avec has curbside pick-up on staples for your home bar: red, white, rosé or even bubbles from avec’s curated list of Mediterranean-focused wines. Roots Handmade Pizza locations in Chicago have added “Happy Home Hour” with 50 percent off all delivery and carryout of packaged beer, wine bottles and spiked seltzer.

Other eateries offer wine discounts like Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille where wine bottles are available for 50% off. Daisies just listed a takeout Bloody Mary kit (garnishes included and an option to add locally made vodka).

Buy gift cards

Purchasing gift cards and certificates helps restaurant staff now and you can use your card when restaurants re-open. Chef Danny Grant’s creative way to address the current situation, as well as incentivize customers, is by offering a dollar-for-dollar match.

At his etta and Maple & Ash, guests get a gift card for future use that is of equal value to their pick-up order’s total – e.g. spend $40 on takeout, receive a $40 gift card.

Book events and parties

Just like gift cards, booking a party or event now for a date in the future injects much-needed cash into a restaurant’s lifeline. How about the holidays or your birthday in 2021? It may help you focus more on better times that lie ahead.

Buy merch

Buy coffee making tools, cups and apparelBuy coffee making tools, cups and apparel — Photo courtesy of Intelligentsia Coffee

Lay off of Amazon for a minute and see what your favorite restaurants are selling: cool T-shirts and tank tops, branded mugs and glasses, jackets, caps, swizzle sticks and sweatshirts are some of the possibilities. L.A. bar, The Spare Room, is selling a fun Mad Libs game, too, and who can’t use that?

GoFundMe

Team photo of mfk ChicagoTeam photo of mfk Chicago — Photo courtesy of mfk

Kick in a few bucks to your favorite restaurant’s GoFundMe account set up for their now out-of-work employees to help cover cost of living. If you’re having trouble making ends meet yourself, you can still share the links on social media pages and encourage friends, families and followers to support restaurants, bars and venues.

The United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG) has established a fund for displaced bar workers and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has a disaster relief fund for the hospitality industry.

Stock the freezer or pantry

Some venues are adding groceries. Chicago’s Bar Biscay created Bodega Biscay, a virtual bodega stocked with dairy, produce, beans, rice, pasta, some proteins and spices plus wine, beer and soft drinks. Pastry chef, Aya Fukai of Aya Pastry, now sells frozen items to bake at home in addition to her fresh breads and pastries.

When you’re ordering your delivery or takeout order and you need something for your pantry, don’t be shy to ask the restaurant if you can purchase some chicken stock or pea shoots.

Support farmers who support restaurants and chefs

Support the farmers who support the restaurants and chefsSupport the farmers who support the restaurants and chefs — Photo courtesy of Erika Vernon Photography

They are hurting now, too, and many are offering delivery options to consumers who wish to purchase farm fresh produce, meat and more. Chicago’s Green City Market has a running list of farmers who are able to make delivery or pickup arrangements, and other cities will be doing the same. Dining at a Distance looks to add a farmers/growers page soon.

Urge elected officials to help

Chef Erick Williams from Virtue Restaurant says the most important thing anyone can do right now is to reach out to elected officials on both the state and federal levels. Write emails, letters and social media posts urging them to take action on matters that are important to the industry.

“Whether it’s tax deferment, small business owners receiving loans to stay afloat, unemployment access, we have the power to use our voices to impact change.”

Be a restaurant reviewer

Writing positive reviews on delivery review sites (Grubhub, DoorDash, Caviar, Uber Eats, etc.) as well as Yelp and Google can help restaurants. As so many turn to carryout and delivery services to generate revenue during mandated dining room closures, positive reviews stimulate business.

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