Restaurants are in trouble.
If you have some favorite restaurants (and I hope you do) they need your support right now. Mandatory closings to flatten the curve of the corona virus spread, while the right thing for the long term, is a crisis in the short run for restaurants.
The restaurant business depends on a steady cash flow. Money comes in every week and immediately goes out for payroll, food, and supplies. The relentless drumbeat of monthly overhead expenses for utilities, insurance, and rent never lets up.
A significant unexpected change in revenue tilts the whole system out of kilter. Most restaurants don’t have the resources to keep paying out without money coming in.
Payroll, the highest operating cost, can’t be sustained without sales. Cuts to hours or outright layoffs can come quickly and painfully for kitchen and front of the house staff.
What can we do to help?
The best thing to do is keep patronizing the restaurants by ordering food for pickup or delivery. Take-out food is business-as-usual for many eateries. What’s new is the fine dining places getting into the curbside pickup game. In addition to the usual pizza, sandwiches, and salads, you can now get a very good meal from your favorite restaurant to eat at home.
This is all pretty new, and restaurants are still figuring out what will work. Some are offering their regular menu; others are devising special menus that will pack and travel well. Some are offering discounts to get the ball rolling; others have elected to hunker down and close, at least for now.
Check the restaurant’s website (their menu should be posted there) then contact the restaurant. They may handle the order directly or refer you to a third party like UberEats for delivery. It’s helpful if you can pick up, since the delivery service takes as much as a third of the selling price. Either way, it’s business for the restaurant and a good meal for you.
Ela Benedetti, manager at the much lauded Basso Cafe on New Canaan Avenue in Norwalk, told me that on a typical Saturday night they might serve 90 or 100 dinners. Now they’re relying on some of those patrons to bring the restaurant food home. “We’re trying to be creative,” she explained, “by getting our food to the customer instead of bringing them to the restaurant.”
Basso is promoting delivery from UberEats for some hours and offering free delivery by their staff at other times in addition to curbside pickup. Quantity discounts from 10 to 25% are offered depending on the size of the order. Check their menu online for the daily specials. They’ll take your order just as though they were table side.
Oak and Almond on Main Avenue in Norwalk is offering a 20% discount for orders picked up at the restaurant and on gift cards for future dining. Washington Prime and Match in SoNo, and The Tavern at Gray Barns in Silvermine are just a few of the top-notch restaurants that are offering their award-winning cuisine-to-go.
Check in with your favorite restaurant. Some are ready now, but may find that curbside pickup doesn’t work for them in the long run. Others may take a few days to get organized. The situation is fluid at this point, but the restaurants need your love.
Last Sunday we dined very well on a take-out meal from the Basso Cafe’s regular menu and daily specials. Dinner started with a mushroom purée soup and a mushroom and goat cheese coca (a Spanish crostini). Our delicious main courses were osso bucco with risotto and plantain-crusted halibut with an avocado and red cabbage salad.
When I picked up the food, I ran into Marion Feigenbaum who was also getting a first-class dinner to take home. She’s a regular at Basso and was glad to be able to support them by picking up dinner.
To make your restaurant-at-home meal more memorable, break out a good bottle of wine. If, like me, you’ve got a bottle or two waiting for a special occasion, this may be it.
Our dinner from Basso was the perfect opportunity to open a reserved bottle of Burgundy. Marsha broke out the good china and silver, put on a tablecloth, lit a candle and dimmed the lights — just like a classy restaurant dinner.
Restaurant meals delivered used to be a matter of convenience. Now it’s a matter of keeping restaurants viable. Who knows what the future holds, but in the coming weeks, let’s try to support the restaurants that have been serving us for years.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.