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Is It OK to Order Takeout Right Now?

If you want your favorite restaurant to stay open after coronavirus, read on.

First things first. I don’t want to write this article. As a food and travel writer, my entire world has been canceled, as has the livelihood of all my fellow freelancers who bring you the best photos, the most interesting articles, and who continue to discover the most amazing places. But I need to write this article and you need to read it.

I’m going to talk about restaurants in the age of coronavirus. At this very moment, every restaurant you’ve ever eaten at is hurting. Every waiter that you’re friends with is thinking about how they’re going to pay their rent. Every chef is trying to educate the public on what you can do.

So, what can you do?

Let’s start with the information. What are restaurants doing to protect you and make you feel safe? “What we’re doing is not so different than what we normally do on a regular basis. And definitely not anything different than what we would do during a regular flu season. We’re always promoting wiping down surfaces with sanitation water–bleach water that kills viruses and bacteria–and handwashing is, of course, a super high priority,” says David Nayfeld of San Francisco restaurant Che Fico.

Nayfeld is in the minority of people who agreed to go on the record, because he distinctly understands what’s happening to small businesses and why they need your help during this insane moment.

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If you want your favorite places to be around in a few months when all of this passes by, there are things you can do.

It’s chaos out there for restaurants and they’re rapidly responding to health and safety concerns. MGM Resorts has temporarily closed all of its buffet restaurants. The Michael Mina Restaurant Group has issued enhanced guidelines for handwashing and glove usage, and is forcing workers to stay home when sick. The Sushi Nozawa Group (SUGARFISH, KazuNori, Nozawa Bar) is enacting additional sanitation practices of highly touchable areas (doorknobs, handles, faucets, etc.) and is providing additional hand sanitizer for guests. The salad-obsessed chain of Sweetgreen restaurants is doing “rigorous food safety audits” and has dedicated a hospitality position to be responsible for cleaning all communal surfaces. Chick-fil-A has “heightened their cleansing and disinfecting procedures.” Souvla restaurants in San Francisco has provided added sick leave benefits for its employees. Starbucks is “pausing the use of personal cups.” And Olive Garden is FINALLY offering paid sick leave. On top of that, GrubHub has announced that its forgoing commission fees to help small businesses and multiple chains have started offering free delivery as well.

One restaurant in Los Angeles, Sichuan Impression, is going to even greater lengths to ensure safety by literally taking the temperature of every guest who enters the door. Sadly, Chinese restaurants have been particularly affected due to misinformation, xenophobia, and racism.

Samuel Wang from teahouse Steep LA in downtown Los Angeles’s Chinatown told Fodor’s, “We are seeing a slowdown in our business but everyone who is still coming in seems to be calm. We haven’t taken some of the approaches other Chinese restaurants have been taking, which is to address it directly. We have, however, taken extra precautions with hand sanitizers and additional sanitization of our surfaces.”

And it’s not just Asian restaurants feeling the brunt of the virus (though it’s truly crushing them). More than 40 Seattle restaurants have announced both temporary and permanent closures. In Las Vegas, some restaurants are seeing 40-50% dips in profits. In Washington D.C., restaurants are reporting drops in sales between 25-40%. Celebrity chef David Chang has temporarily closed all his restaurants in New York, D.C., and L.A., and José Andrés has done the same. And the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is now leaning towards a shutdown of ALL bars and restaurants.

These are the people who feed you every single day and are practicing the highest levels of sanitation to make you feel safe.

On Sunday, March 15th, the governors of California, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts closed all bars and clubs and shut down dine-in restaurants or forced them to go to half capacity or takeout only. Late on Sunday night, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti shut all restaurants down except for takeout and drive-through only, this has since expanded throughout all of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities. While in San Francisco, and surrounding cities, all residents have been ordered to shelter in place, except for essential needs like medical purposes.

Additionally, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and state and local governments have begun to advise against going to any function with large groups of people. The CDC officially announced on March 15th to avoid all gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. And President Donald Trump issued official guidelines that recommend avoiding groups of more than 10 people.

The city of San Francisco requires restaurants to have sick time off, so employees don’t have to feel pressure to come in and make money. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in most cities around the country.

Let’s talk about what you can do. Of course, it’s important to stay and feel safe no matter what. And the idea of going to a restaurant may seem anathema to you right now. But if you want your favorite places to be around in a few months when all of this passes by, there are things you can do.

“If you like a restaurant, right now is a great time to order to-go food from there. If you’re the type of person who likes to tip big, now is the time to tip big. But besides that, spending money is super important. Support local small businesses. Guests should also do some thoughtful things like wiping down your credit cards or ATM cards or your phone,” said Nayfeld.

Other tips you should be thinking about right now include:

  • Buying gift cards to your favorite restaurants. You can use them when this craziness passes, and it gives the restaurants a short-term lifeline.
  • Use delivery services like Caviar, DoorDash, Postmates, and GrubHub. Restaurants have the highest standards of cleanliness and this is an easy way to support them.
  • If possible in your community, go to farmers markets and support local entrepreneurs, but make sure to keep social distancing.
  • Check with your favorite restaurants to see if they’re doing take-out orders.
  • And for god’s sake–stay home if you have ANY signs of sickness or are within an at-risk group. And, of course, follow any advice by local, state, and federal health officials.

We’re all hurting out here, but please keep small businesses and hourly wage employees at top of mind. These are the people who feed you every single day and are practicing the highest levels of sanitation to make you feel safe. “The restaurant industry has typically done something, where it’s almost like a badge of honor to work through while you’re sick. But we’ve done everything we can to reverse that notion,” said Nayfeld.

Since speaking with Nayfeld, he and his team have decided to shut down their dine-in restaurant and are converting Che Fico Alimentari to a delivery/pickup model.

Additionally, with every restaurateur and chef I’ve spoken to, they’ve made sick leave a large point of interest. They are not having anyone near their restaurant that has the faintest symptoms whatsoever and most are doing the best they can to pay their workers who are home on sick leave.

So, please, please, please support your local restaurants in any way you can so they will survive this and continue to offer those unforgettable moments once this f——- virus has faded away.

GypsumGal March 18, 2020

Lots of businesses will suffer. I absolutely DO worry about restaurants including take-out as people can be infected and show no symptoms for a relatively long period of time. Also, lay off the F-Bombs and abbreviations thereof--> loss of credibility.

mimilligro March 17, 2020

As an emergency physician on the front lines of this pandemic I consider this article to be offensively irresponsible. It's not about being clean but about minimizing human to human interaction, and that means staying home. Respect the sacrifices of those who cannot.