By Mallory Burns

Have you found yourself wanting to take care of your service-industry folks while nervously trying to make sure you can also take care of yourself? I’ll go ahead and vulnerably raise my hand. I miss my friends and family out there. I miss the background buzz of a Friday night out, hugs from my favorite smiling faces, the cocktails, the appetizers, the lack of dishes…

I want to give to my restaurants right now in the best ways I can, but for some of us, ordering takeout five nights a week just isn’t totally feasible. I’ve researched, reached out, and done my best (we’re all just doing our best right now) to come up with a list of low- or no-cost ways to help keep the local restaurant industry as booming-as-one-can-possibly-boom during a quarantine.

1. Social Media
Like them on social media outlets and engage in their posts. Follow what they are posting for you. Share their posts to spread helpful information and to inspire your friends and family. I’d venture to say the majority of us have upped our daily screen time by roughly 400%, so let’s be at least a little bit productive. When you see your friends post and share, engage in those too! Encourage engagement at every step. I’d like to see you try to avoid Kemuri (actually, I really don’t want you to avoid Kemuri ever) after browsing their Facebook and Instagram feeds – especially with their 10% off curbside offer.

2. Mini Grocery Stores
Buy your groceries from them when you can. Spread the love when you are buying your weekly necessities. Sure, you probably won’t be able to find Cheez-Its at your favorite pizza spot (free marketing idea for any pizza joints – you’re welcome), but you can certainly cross off some fresh, local produce from your list by picking up some spring mix or strawberries from The Root or heading to small markets like The Bramble Market, The Curve Market, and Me & McGee Market. Be creative and thoughtful. Small purchases can make a world of difference for our restaurants and suppliers alike right now.

3. Wine & Beer
Utilize restaurants for wine and beer purchases. Please continue supporting your favorite local liquor stores by stocking up on cocktail favorites, but consider buying bottles of wine or six-packs of beer from one of our restaurants. I think it’s all safe to say we need some margarita mix from Local Lime or a batch famous Heights Taco & Tamale Co. mojitos to get us through this. Holding out hope for an at home Velvet Orange solution…

4. Thank You’s
Emotional support is important right now, too. Handwrite notes to deliver along with your tip to encourage staff, show up for your curbside pickup with a sign you made with your kids, or maybe even consider donating to organizations and charities focused on providing mental health support to our service industry friends.

5. Positive Reviews
Leave glowing reviews about your favorite experiences in restaurants. When you are traveling to a new town or even looking for a new place to go around home, do you do a little online research first? I bet most of us do. Help bring in new patrons by leaving some love on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Make a long list of your favorite restaurants and commit to leaving reviews on multiple outlets. Don’t just leave 5 stars and walk away – really think about a specific, positive experience you’ve had somewhere and talk about it. Mention your waitstaff or bartender by name, when possible. I’ve spent at least 30% of my annual earnings at Ciao Baci and, before now, had never taken the time to leave a review highlighting my always-delightful service and food experiences.

6. Donations
Donate a tip even if you can’t afford a full takeout meal or don’t want to leave the house. Every time you make yourself a fancy cocktail, toss some dollars in a tip jar and rejoice in the fact that we are relieved from a 33% liquor tax right now. What a brilliant time to re-purpose that cash I know you’d be spending, too.

7. Deal Directly with the Restaurant
Call and place your order with the restaurant directly, when possible. Sure, we all love the convenience of home delivery apps and it certainly has its place (they need to be supported, too!). For now, when possible, consider calling the restaurant directly and using the extra cash you’d spend on driver tip and delivery fees to pour some extra love into the restaurant tip jar. Some restaurants, like Trio’s, have quickly upped their adaptability game and even offer online ordering and delivery.

8. Gift Cards
Kill two birds with one stone by using your local restaurants to send love and support to others. I’m sure by now you’ve seen encouragement to purchase gift cards to support businesses, but what if we started purchasing gift cards for others to use now and in the future? Your hairdressers and estheticians out of work would not be disappointed if a family-sized lasagna from The Pantry showed up. This is a guarantee that I will stand by. Remember to tip heavily if utilizing a gift card (and always) and to hold off on using it for now if you can.

9. Much Love
Be courteous, graceful, and patient with your orders. This is a new process for everyone involved. On that note, probably just be courteous, graceful, and patient always. Keep in mind that when our “new normal” starts to return to our “old normal,” we still have a lot of adjusting to do. Be patient with people as we re-learn. (And don’t go spending all the gift cards you bought in the first week back).

10. Be a Steady Force
Last but not least, commit to being consistent. Flooding our support for 6 days and slowly trickling off will only spark hope and add stress. Consider making a plan to “adopt” a restaurant per week for the foreseeable future. Throw yourself into being supportive in every way you can for that week by using the tips listed above and adding your own (and share with the class!). Think outside the box and focus on places you may not see quite as frequently on social media outlets, such as Crazee’s Cafe and Mama’s Gyros Grill. We need the whole spectrum of our restaurant community to feel supported right now, and we have the ability to do just that from the socially distant comfort of our own homes.

Show up where you can. Be good to yourself and be good to others. Group hug when we get to the other side.

Tags: ,