5 New Ways To Help Your Favorite Restaurant Survive The Coronavirus Crisis - Scott Livengood

5 New Ways To Help Your Favorite Restaurant Survive The Coronavirus Crisis

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Last week, as the coronavirus crisis was building, I wrote about ways that customers could help their favorite restaurants.

You loved that story. Many of you took action. But in just the past few days, the situation has changed drastically in the restaurant business.

Across cities large and small, restaurants have closed, or switched to take-out and delivery, under orders from state governors. Bars are closed, although some are able to deliver alcohol as long as a patron orders food.

The National Restaurant Association said Wednesday that half the 5.4 million jobs in the industry could be lost to the crisis over the next three months, costing restaurants as much as $225 billion.

That’s forcing the restaurant industry to loudly appeal for help from government leaders, and to plead with their patrons to stay loyal. So the advice I gave last week needs to be updated with some fresh ideas.

Here are five new ways you can help your favorite restaurant, and the restaurant industry, get through the most uncertain period in modern times.

1. If it’s open, order food to go. Before you plan your meals, check your restaurant’s website and its social media.

Restaurants have been swamped adjusting to the new carry out and delivery environment, and they may not have had time to update their sites.

The best place to look may be social media, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There, you can find the limited menus that some places are now offering.

Don’t expect to find everything that was on the menu before last weekend. And even though some well-known places have closed, other high-end restaurants are adjusting.

Commander’s Palace, arguably the most famous restaurant in New Orleans, has created Commander’s Palace To Go, a take out menu available between 11 am and 7 pm Central Time.

Familiarize yourself with what’s available, then place your order. Tip generously. A number of places are now pooling tips, since staffs have been cut, and there are no tables to serve.

2. Try unique delivery options. In Ann Arbor, where I live, a number of restaurants are offering “hands free delivery.”

That means you place your order, and the restaurant brings it and leaves it in a designated spot on your porch or in your hallway for you to go out and retrieve.

It eliminates any personal contact between you and the delivery person, but allows you to still get your meal.

Other restaurants are utilizing pickup shelves, along the lines of the ones in Panera Bread.

You place your order, run down to retrieve it, and collect it from a shelf or counter that’s often placed outside the restaurant. That way, you don’t encounter anyone.

3. Buy a gift certificate, and add a tip. Last week, I brought up the idea of buying gift cards, and many restaurants are getting into it in a big way.

Some places are adding “tip lines” where you can designate money to go directly to staff, rather than fold it into the value of the card.

However, we’re also finding out how many restaurants don’t offer gift cards online, especially smaller ones. You might have to be pro-active.

If you’re able to contact your favorite place, ask if they would affect payment for a gift certificate via credit card, PayPal or Venmo.

Almost every restaurant offers some kind of way to give a gift, and they can mail you the certificate to use when they reopen.

4. Make a donation. Funds have sprung up all across the country to help restaurant staff weather the virus crisis.

Eater Chicago has a running list of places by neighborhood that are accepting help for their staffs. Here’s some information regarding restaurant workers in New York City.

Some restaurant groups and unions also are leading fund raising drives.

And if you’d like to display your support for restaurant workers, Chicago Hospitality United is selling a t-shirt. It costs $25, and you can add a tip that will go to help laid off workers. The fund has already raised tens of thousands of dollars.

5. Sign a petition. Restaurants all over the country are getting behind petitions asking government officials for help. It’s a tough slog, because the restaurant industry simply doesn’t have the clout of car dealers and the airlines.

Many of the petitions live on One of the most popular is called Save America’s Restaurants, and it had nearly 60,000 signatures at midday on Wednesday.

It’s backed by a number of big name chefs, including legendary author and restaurant owner Alice Waters; Vishwesh Bhatt, a 2019 James Beard Award winner; Michael Gulotta, a 2020 Beard nominee and owner of two New Orleans restaurants; and Stephanie Izard, the Chicago restaurant owner who was the first female winner of Top Chef.

You also can write to your lawmakers and to the White House. Aid packages are coming together now, and if restaurants are important to you, speak up.

About Scott Livengood

Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.

Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.