how to eat in restaurants during and after coronavirus lockdown ends: new rules of restaurant dining

Looking for ways to support the restaurant industry during the pandemic? There are numerous funds and creative campaigns launched that aim to get much-needed cash to restaurants, and fast. Here’s how to help.

The restaurant industry continues to flounder amid the now months-long shutdown of non-essential businesses. While some have already shuttered their doors, only time will reveal the true damage the virus will have on the restaurant industry. When things reopen, we may be greeted with a new post-pandemic “normal” and, quite possibly, with many of our favorite dining destinations missing from it. To help stem the tide of restaurant closures, it’s incumbent on all of us to support the eateries and food businesses if we’re able.

more ways to help7 Easy Ways to Support Your Local Businesses During COVID-19Food brands, individual personalities, and nonprofit organizations have all jumped into the fray to help drive awareness and raise funds for restaurants and restaurant workers in these critical days. Most restaurants operate on extremely tight margins and so direct infusions of cash to keep the lights on and landlords at bay are wholly important. Restaurant workers themselves are facing equal hardship in the face of prolonged unemployment and so several funds have been enacted to support them and their families. 

Some of these opportunities to donate present opportunities for you, the consumer, too. From unique educational programming you can participate in to a new program for buying restaurant dining bonds that will actually increase in value; the industry has gotten creative in giving folks ways to pitch in (and score a little kickback for themselves, too). Of course, there are seemingly endless ways to simply donate too, which is likely the fastest and easiest way to help out a place you love. That and ordering takeout. Here are just a few of the different efforts around the country you can get involved in to help save restaurants and help restaurant workers.

Chefstival (Memorial Day Weekend)

ChefsFeed and SF New Deal have teamed up to bring the first-ever Chefstival this coming weekend to benefit SF New Deal—the grassroots non-profit organization that pays restaurants to provide meals to those in need during the Covid-19 crisis. The Chefstival will bring together over a dozen of the Bay Area’s culinary leaders to host interactive cooking classes and conversations through ChefsFeed Experiences. 100 percent of proceeds will go to helping the industry and feeding those in need. Half of all ticket proceeds will go directly to the participating host chef and their staff, and the remaining proceeds will be donated to SF New Deal to fund programs that bring meals to San Francisco residents. To support, you can purchase a pass for the whole weekend for $150 here. Individual tickets to Chefstival classes are available for $20 here.

Chefstival lineup includes:

Dining Bonds

A team of industry veterans led by some savvy PR folks set up a nationwide initiative to help get funds into the hands of restaurants now, through something called dining bonds. Not unlike government-issued savings bonds, these bonds can be purchased to inject needed cash into restaurants now and redeemed for a higher (usually 25 percent) value once restaurants reopen (typically 30-60 days after). For example, if you buy a bond for $75, you can redeem it for $100 later. Yeah, that’s like free money, baby, and you’re helping out an eatery that needs it badly. See participating restaurants here and scoop up a bond or two.

Yelp and GoFundMe

Back in March, the popular restaurant review platform pledged 25 million (!) to help small businesses around the country, the survival of which Yelp relies on for its business too. More recently, they teamed up with fundraising site GoFundMe and added a “Donate” button, available now on Yelp pages to quickly and safely donate money during the shutdown. To kickstart this effort, Yelp Foundation and GoFundMe pledged to match up to $1 million in initial donations. Look out for the donate button on your favorite local restaurant’s Yelp profile for an easy way to infuse much-needed cash to keep them afloat.

Southern Smoke Foundation 

Southern Smoke is a crisis relief organization, co-founded by Chris Shepherd, the chef and owner of Underbelly Hospitality, which is designed to aid people in the food and beverage industry. They’ve traditionally jumped in to help restaurant industry folks with medical emergencies, but given the current and very dire situation, Southern Smoke has expanded their support to the industry at large. In addition to general fundraising, they recently partnered with direct-to-consumer cookware brand Made In for a line of colorful frying pans (currently sold out), with proceeds going to the foundation, as well as Karbach Brewing to raise money via a special release brew called Love Street. To date, the foundation has raised and donated over $3 million. You can go here to learn more and support the foundation.

New Belgium Bar & Restaurant Relief Fund

New Belgium Brewing—makers of delicious brews like Fat Tire and Voodoo Ranger IPA, among others—launched a Bar & Restaurant Relief Fund to support laid off and furloughed workers in the brewery’s hometowns of Fort Collins, CO, and Asheville, NC. So far, New Belgium has raised a whopping $232,000 and hopes to raise even more dough as the shutdown persists. To learn more about the grant application or to donate, visit, or text “NBBGives” to 44321. Or find buy some of their special Stay Home beer, of which all proceeds directly benefit the foundation.

World Central Kitchen

This nonprofit started by Spanish chef José Andrés a few years back helps provide food to people affected by natural disasters, WCK has been on the ground during the COVID-19 outbreak too, delivering meals to quarantined ship passengers and to thousands of people across the country who need food during the emergency. The organization has also been delivering fresh meals, feeding front-line care workers, and helping closed restaurants.

RWCF COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund

RWCF is a New York-based nonprofit that is directing all contributions to organizations leading on-the-ground efforts in the restaurant community. That includes providing zero-interest loans to businesses to maintain payroll and establishing a relief fund for individuals experiencing economic hardship. Money donated will go directly to helping the industries most vulnerable: 50 percent of proceeds for direct relief for restaurant workers, 25 percent for nonprofit organizations serving restaurant workers in crisis, and 25 percent for zero-interest loans for restaurants to get back up and running.

The United States Bartenders Guild

The USBG National Charity’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program is collecting donations to support the grant program and providing assistance to bartenders and their families in need during the pandemic. Recipients of the grant do not need to be members of the USBG. For more info on how to apply for a grant, go here.

Food Fight GA

Georgia Organics and the Jamestown Charitable Foundation, a public charity from the Atlanta-based real estate investment and management company behind Ponce City Market, have collaborated to launch Food Fight GA. The mission here is to relieve food and income insecurity for food service professionals and Georgia’s small farmers during this time. The new initiative is providing restaurant workers with weekly grocery boxes, including ingredients sourced from Georgia farms and freshly baked bread from Root Baking Co. The program is open to current and former staff at Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Staplehouse, Star Provisions, and Georgia Organics Farmer Champion restaurant partners, including BoccaLupo, The Deer & The Dove, and Miller Union

Header image courtesy of andresr / E+ / Getty Images.

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