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How the Restaurant Industry is Responding to COVID-19

Plus resources for diners, restaurateurs, and chefs

March 13, 2020

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Plating tomato salad at the Beard House photo by Clay Williams
Photo: Clay Williams

Updated: 04/3/20

We've been gathering resources from across the country. Click here for national and regional relief services, guides, and more.

We're looking for culinary leaders across the country who are interested in engaging with policy makers at the state and local level to advocate for financial and other assistance during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Sign up here.

The James Beard Foundation is acutely aware of the health and safety concerns surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are also mindful of how this virus is negatively impacting the hospitality industry at large, both from a well-being and economic standpoint. Novel coronavirus COVID-19 is pushing the restaurant industry to think creatively as travel bans are put into place, cities cancel conventions, and events are postponed until the summer. It’s been great to see the open sharing of information by chefs and restaurateurs with each other and the transparency with customers about expanded health and safety measures.

Industry support webinars: The James Beard Foundation is hosting webinars on varying—but relevant—topics, to help provide resources for the hospitality industry and to better stay connected. These webinars are recorded, and past recordings can be found on the bottom of that page.

Some of the measures we’re seeing chefs around the country implement are:

  • Increased handwashing, sanitizing, and glove use by staff
  • Asking employees to stay home in the event of fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, in some cases mandating up to a week at home
  • Asking employees to avoid others who may be ill
  • 3X daily disinfection of all kitchen surfaces, equipment, doors, bathrooms, customer surfaces (tables and chairs), and other high-touch areas
  • HOURLY mandatory handwashing breaks
  • Thermometers provided to each restaurant location to check for fever of any employee who seems sick
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes available at reservation station for guests as they check in
  • Paper towels offered in restrooms and for wiping tables
  • Moving or removing tables to expand space between tables and customers

In addition, to reduce waste and costs, we’re seeing restaurants keeping food purchases to a minimum by removing specials and creating limited menus.  

Other Ways to Support the Industry

Many restaurants have been sending emails or posting on social media about the extra precautions they’re taking to make restaurants as safe to eat in as possible, but there are also other ways to support restaurants:

  • Gift cards: consider buying a gift card (or cards). Doing so potentially gives a restaurant immediate income and the gift certificate can be redeemed at a later date.
  • Dining Bonds: a group of restaurant industry professionals has created supportrestaurants.org. The site is an aggregator of restaurants offering "dining bonds," which work like savings bonds (you can purchase a bond at a lower rate, and redeem it for a higher rate in the future).
  • Delivery: consider ordering delivery. It's not risk-free, and most delivery companies take a cut of the cost of the meal, but it's a way to patronize your favorite restaurant without leaving your house.
  • Stock up strategically: fill your refrigerator and pantry with supplies from small businesses or restaurant-markets, in addition to grocery stores.
  • OpenTable's COO shared some suggestions with their email list for helping restaurants during this time (tip well, rebook for a future date, order delivery, and more).

COVID-19 Resources

We are also building a list of resources for the industry, along with articles and examples of how the industry is responding to this unprecedented event. Check back soon for updates as we receive information.

Practice-Sharing Resources
  • Media outlets such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Life and Thyme, and The Counter are sharing perspectives, insights, and advice from chefs and restaurants around the country as they adapt to life under the pandemic.
  • Union Square Hospitality shared a video from founder CEO Danny Meyer on the efforts they’re making within their restaurant group.
  • Alinea Group shared their wide-ranging response, including hygiene protocols, booking and customer service practices, and modifications to employee scheduling and benefits, and more.
  • OpenTable collected guidelines and advice from communications experts on how to talk to your customers, as well as suggestions from restaurant-owning users on how their businesses are handling COVID-19.
Health Care Resources
Resources for Businesses

Spill the Dish has created a database of resources (non-profit funds, government agencies, changed laws, even GoFundMe's), searchable by state and type of relief.

Eater is compiling and updating a list of relief funds availabile to restaurants and food service workers across the nation.

Cherry Bombe has a growing list of national resources organized by geographic area.

Food + Tech Connect has created a spreadsheet tracking resources, advocacy groups, funding sources, and charities.

Cooks Who Care has created a living document that covers both Philadelphia-focused and nationwide resources for business owners, workers, parents, and more.

The Chicago Tribune has a list of 150 ways to support out-of-work bar and restaurant professionals.

Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation is updating a list of resources and relief funds.

Another Round Another Rally is offering grants and accepting donations to help affected food service workers.

Full Heart Hospitality and Fogged In Bookkeeping held a webinar yesterday on Business Ops during COVID-19. View the recording here.

Cities around the country are putting together emergency funds to help workers impacted by COVID-19. We’ll update this list as new information comes in.

  • Austin: the Southern Smoke Foundation is administering a fund that directly benefits those in the Austin culinary community impacted by the cancellation of South by Southwest. For more information visit:
  • New York: starting Friday, March 13, at 5:00 P.M., all venues in the state seating 500 people or less must reduce their capacity by 50 percent, including restaurants and bars. The de Blasio administration announced steps to help small businesses stave off layoffs and closures. The city will offer businesses with fewer than 100 employees interest-free loans of up to $75,000, if they can demonstrate sales decreases of 25 percent or more.
  • Seattle: Amazon is establishing a $5 million fund to help Seattle small businesses—like bars, restaurants, and food trucks—offset the sales lost from the company’s work-from-home decree and help pay employees. The company announced that small businesses located in Seattle’s South Lake Union and Regrade neighborhoods can apply for a grant from Amazon. Amazon will prioritize grants for businesses that rely on foot traffic to attract customers and that can provide information showing how much revenue they expect to lose this month. Amazon says it will disperse the grants in April, and will provide more information on its company blog in the coming days about how to apply.
  • San Francisco: the city will allow qualifying small businesses to defer payment to the tax collector on their next round of quarterly taxes, due April 30, until February 2021. The city will provide additional tax relief by deferring the collection of permitting fees that businesses like restaurants and bakeries pay for at least three months.
  • Bay Area: Check this out the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition for additional resources for the Bay Area hospitality industry.
Mental Health and Sobriety Resources

National Resources
Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) are both national organizations supporting those in recovery. A.A. is offering members digital meetings in response to coronavirus pandemic.

Industry-specific resources:

  • Ben’s Friends is the food and beverage industry support group offering hope, fellowship, and a path forward to professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction. It exists to provide a safe haven and an anonymous, judgment-free forum for workers in an industry that has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the country. Ben’s Friends models acceptance and gratitude, and though unaffiliated with A.A. or N.A., shares an important commonality: the only thing you need to bring through the door is a desire to stop drinking or using. There are currently Ben’s Friends groups in Asheville, NC; Austin; Boston; Charleston, SC; Charlotte, NC; Columbus, OH; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Portland, OR; Raleigh, NC; Richmond, VA; Savannah, GA; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.
  • Chefs With Issues is a website built by writer Kat Kinsman. On this site, people involved in the industry (not just chefs) can share their stories and resources for dealing with the particular pressures of restaurant life, so that other people may feel less alone. Chefs With Issues also has a Facebook group you can apply to join.

For more information, you can view our Intro to Sobriety Resources webinar here. You can also access a longer list of resources here and read more on our site.

Stay updated with the latest information regarding James Beard Foundation events and programs in light of COVID-19.

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If you have resources or tips to add to this list, please reach out at media@jamesbeard.org.