Kids are out of school, and many of us are working remotely. Who will take the first hit to the bottom line? Quite possibly local restaurants and their staff, who rely on a tip-based culture for the majority of their income.
Do not expect independent restaurants to have a commercial line of credit to rely on during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month’s revenue is what’s keeping their establishment liquid; there may be no reserves if they must close for an extended period. And the food and beverage industry just survived the post-holiday doldrums. Nothing is harder on food and beverage’s bottom line than midwinter, and now restaurants are facing a worst-case March scenario.
There are lots of simple ways to support your favorite coffee shop, restaurant and bar in the coming weeks, and small, consistent gestures can contribute to an avalanche of help.
Buy gift cards now
Purchasing gift cards now is the single most effective thing you can do for an independent restaurant. Hold onto them until all travel/school/work restrictions are lifted. Restaurants are telling me they will honor them indefinitely, and many are keeping track of gift card purchases in case you lose them.
Tip 20% or more on carry out
Your servers and bartenders make $2.13 an hour. On takeout orders, tips are shared with the person who prepared and boxed it, essentially making your order the least profitable task a server or hostess or bartender will perform during their shift. Tip and tip well on your to-go items, 20% at the very least.
Ask for services
Restaurants want to hear what you want right now. Ask about delivery or ask for curbside pickup. Offer to buy a quart of your favorite dressing, or a sheet of banana pudding or a tray of an entrée protein.
Pay for delivery
Offer to pay a delivery charge. Do not place the burden on your favorite restaurant. And tip on delivery. It is probably a server that has driven your order to you.
Order several meals
Unlike leftovers, your mouth has not touched to-go meals, so they can safely last longer in the refrigerator. Ask for sauces in separate containers. Unbox your meal right away and place it into an airtight container and into the fridge. To reheat, remember your microwave blasts food from the inside out. Warm your meal without sauce at 50% for a minute or two and then top with sauce, increase to full power and heat for another minute. Check the temperature to see if more is needed.
Tip on undiscounted tab
Restaurants are starting to offer all kinds of incentives to keep patron traffic up, but discounting a bill equates to lower tipping. Be mindful of the full-price tab and tip accordingly (because you didn’t receive discounted service).