Over the past several days, the word “unprecedented” keeps popping up in conversations and press releases about COVID-19. While the new strain of the coronavirus is affecting all of us in different direct and indirect ways, the impact on the hospitality industry could prove to be catastrophic.
At 405 Magazine, we believe that one of our primary roles is to promote and support local businesses, including restaurants, bars and hotels. More than ever before, the challenges faced by our friends, families and neighbors in the hospitality industry are potentially devastating, and as promoters of what is good about OKC, we want to do our part to help.
Much has been said and shared about direct ways you can assist. These seemingly small changes in your routine can make an extraordinary difference in the health and solvency of small businesses.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Order food to-go and pick it up at the restaurant. Many have implemented curbside service. Kaylee Owen at Magnolia Bistro in Auto Alley has put cones up out front and reserved the spot for pick up. As we are compiling this information, Rachel Cope, founder of 84 Hospitality, is meeting with her team to convert all her concepts to takeout and delivery only for now. Similar stories abound. The restaurants are doing their best to adapt to the crisis, and we all can lend a hand — or properly distanced elbow — and some understanding during this time.
- Buy gift cards. It’s a short-term solution, but it can be very helpful when restaurants genuinely need cash flow to keep going. Chef Kurt Fleischfresser of Western Concepts and Coury Hospitality said he’s hearing from vulnerable operators who cannot afford a two-week interruption in revenue. “We’re potentially looking at businesses closing forever,” he said.
- Tip generously. This one is extremely important as people tend to tip less when ordering takeout. Believe it or not, the amount of work that goes into taking your order, preparing it, boxing and bagging it, adding condiments and utensils is nearly the same as providing you table service. Servers likely have not complained about this, but it’s a reality with which they deal constantly, and servers are one of the most vulnerable demographics right now. “This crisis is devastating for tipped employees,” Jim Hopper, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association said. “We don’t yet have a solution from the governor as to how we’ll make federal emergency dollars available to small businesses.”
- Some restaurants will remain open for dining in. We are not experts on this, and we don’t claim to have new insights. Even restaurateurs are divided over how to handle whether or not to keep it an option. “It’s a very fluid situation,” Hopper said. “We started with restaurants are the cleanest places because we’ve had protocols in place for decades for the health and safety of our guests, but now the CDC is saying to stay away from large gatherings, so that presents a new set of issues.” At Lee’s Sandwiches in the Asian District, Jenny Nguyen has removed enough tables that each remaining table is six feet from its neighbor.
- Buy merchandise. This comes from the insightful Rachel Cope. Many concepts do have T-shirts and hats, cups and keepsakes. By all means, buy merch! Buy them as gifts for your family in other cities or states. Be an evangelist for what’s awesome about OKC!
To help, we at 405 Magazine, will continue support our businesses including buying food from local restaurants and we’ll keep you updated with new information. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association and representatives from restaurants, hotels and grocers are meeting with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt today. We will know more tomorrow and update you then.
Rachel Cope said her company is doing what it can to help everyone, even competitors, “because the goal is that we all get through this, not just 84 Hospitality. I think Oklahoma City is exactly the kind of place where we all pull together to help everyone succeed,” she said.