How To Support Restaurants and Their Workers Right Now

MacKenzie Fegan
·7 min read

We spend a lot of time writing about, thinking about, and, of course, eating at restaurants. So, as city and state governments impose curfews, limit the capacities of establishments, and close bars and restaurants entirely, we’re asking a lot questions: Will the restaurants we know and love be able to reopen in a post-virus world? How will the cooks, servers, bussers, and bartenders who staff those restaurants make it through the coming weeks and months with no income?

The people who have fed us when we’ve needed comfort, popped bottles for us when we’ve had cause to celebrate, and brought pizza to our doorstep every other night of the week need relief, and fast. So we’ve put together this list of resources for anyone who wants to support restaurants, bars, and their staff during this unprecedented time. We want to be clear—it will take more than buying a t-shirt to save the restaurant industry. Whether or not you have the resources to make a donation or buy a gift card, contact your elected officials and tell them not to forget about the restaurant industry. Here's what else you can do to help:

Donate to an Existing Non-Profit

If you want to support service workers whose livelihoods have been disrupted, there are several existing organizations—both regional and national—that provide aid to those in the restaurant industry. Many of these nonprofits have set up specific COVID-19 funds, and they have infrastructure and administration already in place.

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund (national)

One Fair Wage (California, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania)

Big Table (Seattle, Spokane, and San Diego)

Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington Educated Eats / Hook Hall Helps (D.C.)

Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Program (Houston)

The Giving Kitchen (Georgia)

The LEE Initiative (Louisville)

The James Beard Foundation Relief Fund (national)

The United States Bartenders' Guild COVID-19 Relief Campaign (national)

CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees (national)

TX Restaurant Relief Fund (Texas)

Colorado Restaurant Association Angel Relief Fund (Colorado)

Restaurants Care (California)

Golden Rule Charity (national)

Order Takeout or Delivery

Not all restaurants are closed! Many have switched to takeout or delivery only. Find out which restaurants are still operating in your neighborhood using one of these guides and, if you can, tip generously:

Resy’s City Guide to Takeout and Delivery Options (Resy, the restaurant reservation platform, is now allowing users to “book” a meal for takeout or delivery. They are waiving their fees.)

Dining at a Distance(Sixteen cities and growing)

Eater’s guide to New York restaurants that have expanded delivery options (New York)

Grubhub has also suspended fees for their restaurant partners, and proceeds from their Donate the Change program are going to the Grubhub Community Relief Fund.

Chinatown Partnership's guide to what's open(Chinatown, New York)

Buy Merch!

This is a great time to show your support for your favorite restaurant, bar, or coffee shop by buying some merch. If you’ve been wearing the same ratty shirt for five days in a row, switch it up with this tee featuring Prince astride a Luck Dragon. Maybe you need a new tote bag to carry your belongings from one room of your apartment to the other room of your apartment. Wear this dad hat to your next Zoom meeting and your boss need never know that you’re not wearing pants. Paint your nails Cafe Roze pink and remember that outside, it’s nearly spring! We also love the merch at these spots:

Hunky Dory - Brooklyn

Rolf and Daughters - Nashville

Walrus and the Carpenter - Seattle

Porta - New Jersey, NYC, and Philly

Rose Foods - Portland, ME

Heirloom Rustic Ales - Tulsa

Russ and Daughters - NYC

Manresa - Palo Alto

Elske - Chicago

Ticonderoga Club - ATL

Hungry Pigeon - Philly

Lula Cafe - Chicago

Kismet - LA

Lorne Wine - Maine

Tired Hands Brewing - Philly

Rose’s Fine Foods - Detroit

Buxton Hall - Asheville

Diner - NYC

Homage Brewing - LA

McGuire-Moorman Restaurants - Austin

Mamaleh’s - Boston

Fat Rice - Chicago

Kopitiam - NYC

Turkey and The Wolf - New Orleans

Bad Saint - DC

Nyum Bai - Oakland

Maketto - DC

Fish Cheeks - NYC

<cite class="credit">Photo by Emma Fishman</cite>
Photo by Emma Fishman

Buy Your Favorite Restaurant's Products Online

Some of your favorite restaurants sell their sauces, jams, and relishes online. You’re cooking at home, and they need some income; it’s a win-win. Here are just a few ideas:

Nong’s Khao Man Gai Sauce

Papalote Salsa

Black Seed Bagels

Sqirl Jams

No 7 Subs Hot Sauce

Hell’s Backbone Grill Granola

Butcher & Bee Jams and Relishes

Honey Butter Fried Chicken Corn Muffin Mix

Konbi Houjicha Milk Jam

Order a Gift Card...and Save It For Later

Gift cards! Not just for awkward office holiday gift exchanges. Show your favorite restaurants some love now and cash in later, when we'll all be relearning how to dine in public. Give restaurant gift cards to all your friends with spring birthdays in the hopes that they'll eventually take you out to dinner! If you don't see the option to purchase a gift card on your fave restaurant's website, slide into their DMs and demand they take your money.

Restaurants participating in the Dining Bonds Initiative are offering gift certificates that work like a savings bond. You buy a bond for less than the face value, redeemable at some point in the future.

Rally for Restaurants is a campaign to encourage diners to buy gift cards, and they will donate one dollar for every social media post to the Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation and World Central Kitchen.

Take Action

Every gift card helps, but what the restaurant workers and the hospitality industry really need is the kind of large-scale relief that can only come from the government. A movement is starting to build across the country to agitate for everything from stimulus packages to rent forgiveness. A few emerging coalitions and activist organizations are below, but you can also contact your elected representatives directly and tell them that restaurants and their employees need help as much as the airlines and large corporations.

America's Table

New York Hospitality Coalition

American Chefs Petition

Donate to a Relief Fund

Dozens of ad hoc coalitions and relief funds have sprung up to address the immediate needs of workers in specific cities and regions. These efforts range from GoFundMe pages with in-depth descriptions of how funds will be distributed to spreadsheets with Venmo usernames of restaurant workers in need. Some of these more informal fundraising networks are partnering with larger organizations—including ones mentioned above—to disburse funds while some are creating their own models.

Charlottesville Restaurant Community Fund

Service Workers’ Coalition (Brooklyn)

Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund

Stock—which is also selling shirts (Chicago)

Ohio Service Industry COVID-19 Relief

COVID-19 Rhode Island Hospitality Relief Fund

Boston Area COVID-19 Restaurant Emergency Fund

Leveler.info (national, mobile access only)

<h1 class="title">Take-out-food-restaurants</h1><cite class="credit">Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images</cite>

Take-out-food-restaurants

Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

Reach Out Directly

Many small, family-owned restaurants have neither merch nor digital gift cards to sell, and they might not be in the extended networks of the organizers of GoFundMe campaigns. How do we help the most vulnerable workers at, say, shuttered restaurants in Chinatown? Kevin Finch, the executive director of Big Table, recommends contacting the manager or owner of a favorite neighborhood restaurant and asking, “Who on your staff is most in need? Can I help that one person?” Finch says, “If you’re trying to make sure the most vulnerable don’t slip through the cracks, it’s not rocket science. It’s old-fashioned connection, person to person.”

Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit