Like a lot of businesses, restaurants are going through hard times right now. Many that depended on liquor sales and sit-down meals are simply closed. I haven’t been able to do any sort of systematic survey, but some of those seem like permanent closures.
I strongly suggest you pick up your phone today and order lunch from a mom-and-pop restaurant. Why? Because when we emerge someday from our social-distancing exercise, most of those restaurants will be gone permanently unless they can maintain a brisk delivery business.
Why mom-and-pop restaurants specifically? Because they are the least capitalized. Chipotle is going to still be there when this is over, but your favorite, small, family-run Mexican or Middle Eastern place … that’s not nearly so likely to be open or to re-open.
Why via the phone and not via the Internet? Most of the online systems take a good chunk of the price of the meal from the restaurant. If you call the restaurant with your order and let them arrange delivery, you make sure they get as much of your dollar as possible and at the same time you give them the option of providing work for someone who has been furloughed during this time of business shutdowns.
Why today? Because if it’s clear to the owners of restaurants that there will be some cash flow during this time, they may be able to justify keeping things going. If they make a rational judgment based on the complete lack of cash flow this week that they are going to be firmly in the red for the next few months, they will make the wise decision to close. And they may never be able to open again.
When we eat at small places we get to know their owners and core employees. We should care if they can keep their business afloat and their employees working as much as possible during this time.
If you’d rather only think about your own self-interest, well, imagine the end of your home stay — what if there is only franchise food left standing?
Order food delivered today. If you pay with a credit card, bring your own pen to the door. (You can buy plastic styluses on Amazon for resistive touch-screens and mesh or rubber-tipped styluses for iPad-style screens, too. Bring those to the door, too, if you like.) If you plan to pay with cash, ask how much to have ready and add a tip to that before the delivery person shows up to make the transaction fast.
Start doing this now. If we all wait just a few weeks to start ordering in, the choice in restaurants will be much, much smaller and both our restaurant-owning friends who have been cooking for us for years and we ourselves will suffer.