The Take Out 25 Oak Park initiative is way worthy. As soon as I heard about it, I made the Pledge to order carryout from a local restaurant every week throughout the winter. As explained on the site, this will help generate the necessary revenue to get these places through what promises to be a most brutal business environment.
Last Monday, pumped by the thought of helping local businesses while bringing in some tasty grub to our bunker, I checked out Oak Park’s Keep Calm and Carry Out listing, which helpfully indicates if a restaurant offers regular takeout, curbside takeout, or delivery.
But then I realized…many restaurants I wanted to check out are closed on Mondays. We’ll try to order from somewhere else this coming week, though with Thanksgiving intervening, that could be tough…but a pledge is a pledge.
To get through the pandemic, many restaurants have pivoted to offering takeout and delivery, and some of Chicago’s very best restaurants – like Ever and Michelin-three-star Alinea – are offering holiday meal kits, something that would previously have been unthinkable.
Restaurants from Evanston to the Southside are now offering groceries that you can take out with your dinner order (need eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast? Have them packaged with your dinner order).
The pandemic has also fueled the rise of ghost kitchens/virtual restaurants, which operate out of unprepossessing, sometimes warehouse-like buildings to provide food for delivery from chefs who once worked in the spotlight at some of the region’s finest restaurants.
In such ways, chefs and restaurants are experimenting with innovative strategies for doing business to get through the pandemic.
“Dark Mondays” are standard in the restaurant industry. Lord knows, the people who make and serve our food have tough jobs, and they deserve at least one day off every week. Usually, after a hectic weekend, restaurants go dark on Mondays because staff need a break and, one assumes, because business-as-usual is less intense on Mondays.
Alas, in the current climate, most restaurants long for a hectic weekend, with tables full of happy diners. The days of the bustling restaurant dining room are, for the moment, gone. Business now is anything but usual.
So, I would suggest to restaurants, maybe you should stay open on Mondays. If restaurants were to stay open all week, they could perhaps re-hire some workers, and, of course, generate additional revenue. Everybody deserves a day or two off per week, but by rotating different people into position to handle the extra day, staff could still get a day off while others get a needed day of work.
There are restrictions on how late restaurants can stay open. Early closures hurt business. So, restaurants could stay open an extra day every week and make up for the business lost due to early closures.
Perhaps suggesting such a model for restaurant business is presumptuous; I’ve worked in a restaurant, but I’ve never run one, and there could perhaps be pitfalls to staying open one more day every week. Still, there are local restaurants like the hugely popular Poor Phil’s and George’s that have been around for years and that are open every day of the week. Other local restaurants might do well to follow that model.
One benefit of the pandemic is that restaurants, though struggling, are uncovering new revenue streams. Staying open one more day a week could make a difference to Oak Park’s beloved, and struggling, restaurants. It might be worth a try.
If you like the idea of Take Out 25 Oak Park, check out their Facebook page.