10 Ways To Help Local Restaurants

Still looking for gift ideas? Consider cocktail gift sets from the Bartender’s Handshake. 

Writer: Karla Walsh 

Since March, more than 110,000 of the country’s restaurants (17% of U.S. independent establishments) have closed, according to the most recent data from the National Restaurant Association. And as we head into winter, our friends in the food industry need us now more than ever. 

With that in mind, we asked chefs, restauranteurs, bar owners and other local food industry experts how we can best support them, for the holidays and beyond. Here’s what they suggested:

1.  Contact Congress. A restaurant relief package has already passed the House of Representatives but is stalled in the U.S. Senate, needing 10 more co-sponsors to be brought to the floor. Sen. Joni Ernst has signed on, but Sen. Chuck Grassley hasn’t. Learn more about the package and how to help here. “The government is far past due on doing literally anything to help,” says Dave Murrin-von Ebers of the Bartender’s Handshake. “If we don’t see any government aid, we may have to go back to a limited staff and limited hours.”

2. Delete the third-party apps. Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats and Postmates take about a 30% cut of the profit from restaurants. Order directly through a brand’s website, or check out Eat, Drink, Swipe, a new resource from Des Moines-based marketing firm Happy Medium that lists how to order directly from local bars and restaurants.

3.  Follow your favorite brands online. “Many chefs and restaurateurs are coming up with thoughtful and creative ways to get through this pandemic, offering new options, flavors and menus for diners,” says George Formaro of Orchestrate Hospitality, who has launched several ghost kitchens, such as Batter Up and Holy Stromboli, out of his brick-and-mortar restaurants. “Like and follow your favorite restaurants on social media and sign up for their email lists so you stay in the know. Then if you see something you like, order it.” 

4. Spread the word about your favorite spots. Leave a positive review and post about a meal on social media; never underestimate the power of positive feedback and word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Purchase holiday gifts. Many brands are offering gift card incentives as we lead up to Christmas. Bubba, for example, is offering a $20 gift certificate with the purchase of a $100 gift card. Contact your favorite brand about how to purchase a gift card to use at a later date once the restaurant has weathered this storm.

6. Dine out when you can. For inspiration on days when you’re feeling indecisive, fill a jar with slips of paper with restaurant names listed on each. Pick one, order and enjoy the adventure around Des Moines by way of takeout or safely-spaced dining in. “If your budget allows, please come see us during the week on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday,” says Sarah Pritchard of Table 128. “We have enough of a crowd on the weekends—although I use the term crowd loosely, as it does fill up when you only have 14 tables—but helping us replace dine-in early in the week would help. … Also, it’s usually pretty darn quiet so social distancing is easy.”

7. Buy spirits from restaurants, breweries and bars. Clyde’s Fine Diner has some epic wine samplers, the Bartender’s Handshake recently debuted unique bitters, syrups and retail cocktail kits complete with vintage barware, and Lua Brewing and the Hall sell crowlers of beer.

8. Try a meal kit, package or subscription. The more meals, the better. For the holidays and beyond, many restaurants are offering family meals or multicourse feasts.

9. Attend a virtual event. Winefest Des Moines is hosting restaurant-led tastings that come with meals, pairings and virtual classes. All proceeds go to the restaurant. Or ask the restaurant themselves. Proof, the Cheese Shop and more are hosting experiences virtually.

10. Give the staff grace. If something doesn’t land at your table perfectly or service takes longer than usual, please remember “we are doing our best and are trying to deliver our best to you in very trying circumstances for us all,” Pritchard says. “When this is all over, it is going to take a while for our industry to recover..”

Sources: George Formaro of Orchestrate Hospitality, Sarah Pritchard of Table 128, Christina Moffatt of Crème Cupcake, Dave Murrin-von Ebers of the Bartender’s Handshake, Chris Diebel and Kate Willer of Bubba—Southern Comforts, Chris Hofffmann of Clyde’s Fine Diner, Lynn Kuhn of the Hall and the Beerhouse, and Kevin Chen of Lucky Lotus.

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