The hospitality industry was challenging to say the least in 2020. There were a record-breaking number of food and beverage business closures - more than 110,000 to be exact - and even almost a year to the day when the first round of pandemic closures struck the United States, restaurant operators are still valiantly fighting to stay in business and find their way back to stability and the potential for growth.
Restaurants are the cornerstone of community - they provide a place for people to gather, celebrate, and connect. The industry is one of the country’s largest private employers and it provides first-time job and career opportunities to people from all walks of life. As we continue to navigate rapidly-changing circumstances, it is sometimes hard to tell how best to support the businesses in our communities. Here are five straightforward ways diners can support local restaurants in 2021 and beyond.
Contact your representatives at the state and local level. (Bet you thought we were going to say spend your money, right?)
Restaurants, bars and other food service providers have been waiting an entire year for support from the federal government. The RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 was introduced in June, passed in the House of Representatives last October, but then was never voted on by the Senate. Recently, the RESTAURANTS Act was reintroduced into Congress. If passed, it would dedicate $120 billion to restaurant relief. Restaurant365 explains that this reintroduced piece of legislation is separate from the Restaurant Rescue Plan, a $25 billion grant relief program for restaurants, that was introduced as an amendment to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by the Senate on February 4, 2021.
Restaurant operators and employees need diners to help them advocate for financial support. Restaurants Act and The National Restaurant Association both provide resources for people in the community interested in getting involved and taking action. There is a lot at stake for restaurants and they need our help.
Show love and support for your favorite establishments on social media and review sites.
The last year has taught restaurant operators the necessity for a strong digital presence. Developing a robust and user friendly website and maintaining active social media accounts is a massive undertaking, but many restaurants have risen to the challenge. Diners can help amplify the efforts of their favorite restaurants by making sure they follow their pages, interact with their content, and leave thoughtful reviews.
We all know that people are more motivated to post a negative review - and data shows that consumers heed negative feedback more often than positive commentary. A thoughtful review and a post shared on social media can go a long way to bringing added diner attention to a restaurant. Some cities and neighborhoods have taken on the task of flooding social media with information about their local businesses - the #SupportSeattleSmallBiz campaign is just one example.
Enjoy a meal at a favorite restaurant, and branch out to try local establishments you haven’t experienced before.
Marshall Weston, the president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland said it exactly right when speaking with Today: “Supporting restaurants is something different to every person, depending on your comfort level.” If you are comfortable dining on-premise, adventure out with your mask firmly in place and remember how to be a five-star diner. If you feel safer dining at home, order delivery or takeout from businesses in your area. When ordering for delivery, review the pros and cons of third-party delivery services and check to see if the restaurant you’re choosing offers their own in-house delivery service. Whether you are dining in or carrying out, diners should also make room in their budgets to tip generously. When in doubt, you can always purchase gift cards for future use or investigate if the restaurant is offering merchandise to create supplemental income.
Learn and respect the rules of dining on-premise during (and after) the pandemic.
The restaurant industry has always been adept at dealing with challenges on the fly and the rapidly changing rules and regulations associated with COVID-19 are just another hurdle for operators to overcome. While restaurants have a duty to communicate with diners about their safety solutions and behavior expectations, diners have the responsibility of accepting the new social contract that shows respect for the health and safety of their peers and the community at large. The rules of the new normal are still being written, but we can certainly agree that some etiquette best practices have been set in place. Trust20 has outlined five simple actions that anyone can integrate into their dining practices and we’re asking people to commit to respecting the efforts of restaurant operators and employees by taking the Trust20 Diner Pledge.
Ask restaurant operators and employees what they need.
Trust20 believes frequent and transparent communication is essential to the success of a business, community, and industry. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but restaurant workers and operators will appreciate hearing from their diners. Business ownership can be a heavy experience and being reminded that they are not alone can provide operators with incredible support. Genuine moments of conversation and connection are one of the primary reasons restaurateurs open their businesses and the pandemic has stolen those moments from them. Help them reconnect even if it is just an email or a direct message on social media.
Looking for more ways to support the restaurant industry? Eater has compiled an extensive list of Relief Funds for Restaurants, Bars, and Food Service Workers.
Trust20 is the new standard of restaurant safety and diner comfort, based on 20 tactics by health and safety experts. Supported by Gordon Food Service and General Mills, Trust20 provides an independently verified certification of restaurant practices, training, and other resources to help restaurants create safe, healthy, and welcome spaces for diners. @Trust20USA