20 May Jonathan Cartu Announces: How to help local restaurants in Charlotte NC during COVID
Help restaurants get through coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home restrictions in North Carolina by learning about food sources and business.
It comes in waves for me, the uncertainty about the world we’re living in right now.
As the owner of a public relations and marketing firm that works with restaurant clients, my team gets a behind-the-scenes look at how the industry is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on a daily basis, in heartbreaking, infuriating and sometimes inspirational ways.
We see the direct messages on social media (yes, all of them) and help resolve issues as quickly as possible, while creating clear communication for our clients who are experiencing shifts in business on a seemingly hourly basis.
And in North Carolina, we could start seeing that reality change again as soon as Friday, when Gov. Roy Cooper could move the state into Phase Two of coronavirus restriction rollbacks, which would allow dining room seating at restaurants.
It might seem obvious, but bears repeating: The restaurant industry has been devastated by the pandemic. Independent restaurants directly employ 11 million workers and indirectly employ millions more up and down the food and hospitality supply chain, according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which was formed by chef and industry advocates across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown. The restaurant industry contributes $1 trillion to the economy each year and comprises 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
How can we help save local restaurants?
Locally-owned or independent restaurants (those not owned by a large national/international holding company or part of a large chain) are small businesses, but they have a big impact on the economy. Charlotte’s independent restaurant scene has really come into its own in the past few years, and it’s incumbent on the collective “us” to make sure it’s still alive on the backside of this crisis.
“We are fighters,” José Andrés, IRC leader, chef/founder of ThinkFoodGroup and founder of World Central Kitchen, said to Food & Wine Magazine. “Nobody works harder than the millions of people that make this big family of independent restaurants. We are fighting to give restaurants a chance.”
It’s going to take a lot of work and collaboration between guests and those restaurants to help the industry survive and recover from COVID-19. Here’s how we can start working now.
Q: What can diners do to help?
The short answer? Get educated. I know, it’s a lot. There’s so much to know. But it is vitally important. Educate yourself about the places and the platforms you use to get food (even in non-pandemic times). Where are you buying your food? Which restaurants are you supporting? Follow the supply chain and make decisions based on what you learn. When you choose to frequent locally-owned restaurants and support area farms, you’re adding directly to the local economy.
Q: There’s been a lot written about third-party delivery services since the pandemic started. Are they really that bad?
Again, education is key. Food delivery services charge restaurants between 15-30 percent on each order. Those services, like Postmates, Grubhub, DoorDash and UberEats, often encourage restaurants to pass those fees along to customers so restaurants can retain some profit (which is typically less than 10 percent). Ordering to-go or curbside directly from an independent restaurant’s website is the best way to maximize local financial impact.
Q. Why can’t restaurants just start their own in-house delivery services?
Some have, and even more have considered it but haven’t launched. Why? Again, it comes down to money (and Insurance and liability).
Q: What can restaurants do to help themselves?
Communicate clearly – and often — about what is happening, from changes in operating hours and menus to details about additional sanitation precautions. Social media is the best way to get a message out to a wide number of people, but it has to be used strategically. Everything posted on social media for a restaurant (or any business, really) should pass a second (or third) set of eyes before it becomes public. Content shared on social shouldn’t prompt more questions — it should anticipate and answer as many questions as possible. Given the noisy space and our collective inability to focus, consistency and frequency are key.
Q: What do we all need to remember through this?