So what can you do to help your beloved neighborhood restaurants and food businesses to weather the storm? Here are some concrete tips:
1. Eat as much takeout as possible.
Set aside a specific day to give yourself a treat and keep a local restaurant alive. Some restaurants are making frozen-food dishes and other pantry items — frozen enchiladas, dumplings, family-style meals — that will keep longer than any given night’s dinner, so be sure to ask even if they don’t advertise them. Many restaurants are also offering takeout drinks and cocktails.
2. Order straight from the restaurant.
While convenient, delivery apps like DoorDash and UberEats take a significant percentage of sales — up to 30 percent — and it is impossible to maintain a successful business model while using them exclusively, said Mrs. White of Everett and Jones. Instead of firing up an app, call your favorite restaurant and put in your order over the phone, or order directly from the restaurant’s website, if possible.
3. Pick up yourself, and pay cash.
If you can walk to the restaurant and pick up the food yourself, do so, and pay with cash. Is there a friend or family member you can help who can’t go out? Pick up a hot meal for them, too. In addition to getting some extra exercise, you’ll save the business the fees — usually about 2 percent of a purchase — charged by credit card companies.
4. Tip well.
A large restaurant may be able to afford servers to cater to people seated outside, but a smaller restaurant might only be able to staff a cook and a front-of-house person to pack and take orders. Many customers are tipping less, or not at all, because they perceive this to be a lower level of service than they are accustomed to when going out, said Alice Liu, who grew up in Manhattan’s Chinatown and helps run Grand Tea Imports, her family’s multigenerational tea and import business. Remember that restaurant employees are working hard to provide you with a dining experience during an unprecedented time, and at a higher risk of exposure to themselves. A healthy tip is a way to show your appreciation.
5. Shop at markets and stores in your community, too.
So much of a neighborhood like Chinatown depends upon foot traffic. You can buy groceries and fresh produce, gifts and kitchenware as well as restaurant meals. Think about other items you might normally buy elsewhere or online, and consider purchasing from the individual small businesses around you.