3 ways you can help Dayton’s independent restaurants

They say March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.

I’m hoping we find the same will be true of the coronavirus, but from the sounds of things, we will need to wait the equivalent of many March months to pass in order to see it go.

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This unseen invader has single-handedly brought life to a standstill, altering almost all of our patterns and plans.

As we all brace for the unknown, restaurants are doing the same. For obvious reasons chains are more prepared to weather the storm, but independent restaurants — which make up nearly two-thirds of the dining options out there — are not.

The New York Times recently reported that analysts expect 75 percent of independents across the county won’t make it through this. The National Restaurant Association estimates that $225 billion will be lost in revenue over the next three months with five to seven million employees losing their jobs.

These are startling, scary predictions that will play out on the local level in a way that could, and many say will, fundamentally change the region’s restaurant landscape.

The food service industry was expected to see an increase of more than 3% in 2020 prior to the coronavirus onslaught according to analysts, with more people eating out than ever. Now the only thing on the menu is takeout for those who are willing to venture out or have food delivered.

It’s a devastating blow to an industry that has always operated on tight margins.

“These restaurants get asked all the time to donate to the community and now is the time to return the favor and help out restaurants during this time,” said Amy Zahora, executive director of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association. “We have a lot of independently owned restaurants in town and this is their only source of income.”

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Zahora is absolutely right. Throughout the course of a year, I hear almost as many heartwarming stories of chefs and restaurants giving back to fundraisers and events as I do the terrific meals and dinners they create.

These restaurants are asked every year to step up for the community, for our fundraisers and events, and they answer the call more times than not. Now is the time for the community to rally around its independent restaurants to help offer support during and after this pandemic.

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🥡 Order takeout or delivery

Currently, many of these restaurants are depending on takeout and delivery for any income they can eek out.

If you are willing to consider that, it’s a great way to help now and save those groceries for later. It’s money that they urgently need and can use. If you don’t want to pick it up in person, there are always food delivery services you can use.

If you really want to help, consider ordering at off-peak times when they aren’t slammed with orders.

Another option is heading to Arrow Wine, which is currently accepting donations to help provide relief to local restaurants during this difficult time.

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🍷 Donate to restaurant relief program

The Arrow Wine restaurant relief program will reward you by making a donation.

A donation of $50 will come with a $10 Arrow gift certificate, $75 will come with a $15 gift certificate and a $100 donation will come with a $25 gift certificate.

“The reason this came about was Mif Frank of Arrow Wine said he was doing really well with business right now and he wants to help the restaurants and the employees who have helped him so much,” said Zahora. “There are restaurants around the region with workers with families who have lost their only source of income and this was a really creative way Mif came up with to try and help.”

Frank, co-owner of Arrow Wine, told Zahora that all proceeds will be directly donated to The Miami Valley Restaurant Association and The Oregon District Business Association to go to help local independent restaurants and workers.

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💵 Buy gift certificates

Buying gift certificates from your favorite local restaurants are a good option for getting money to these restaurants now, but try and use them after restaurants that open back up have time to stabilize. Restaurants could be hit hard when they open back up if everyone comes collecting at once.

So many things will be changed forever when we find ourselves on the other side of this. I’m just hoping that the flavors and dishes that make our community unique and special don’t disappear.

Whatever you choose to do and however you choose to support, don’t forget to tip generously.

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