Putting In Some Perspective…

©Claire Calvin

From Claire Calvin (owner of The Porch, Alma Mexicana and co-owner of Canteen Market and Bistro) and her truly infinite wisdom:

A few more thoughts before I try to meet this new day.
Since the government closed down bars and in-restaurant service today in North Carolina, you may have seen many of your favorite restaurants post on social media that they would move to take-out/curb-side and/or delivery service, and you may have thought, “great! I’ll have so many options whenever I get sick of cooking all of this massive amount of food I just bought!” Maybe you also thought, “great! They’re going to be able to save jobs and stay in business.”
The reality is this:

• many restaurants will only have a few days to determine whether this model is viable, and if they don’t have a high volume of that business right away, they will close that service and shut down completely. If you wait until you’ve cooked through all of your homesteading recipes you’ve got planned, those options will be gone.

• Delivery and take-out, even in a best-case scenario, likely would only require between 50-20% of the back of house staff, and without drink sales and dining room service will not generate the tip income to keep almost any servers. So that’s a ton of employees people are still having to face letting go.

• Transitioning to a completely new service model is not as simple as just shoving the same food into boxes and taking it to your house. Among other things that make it hard are putting in place the technology to get a menu online, figuring out what hours, how far away can you deliver, what menu items, and what containers you’ll put everything in, and on and on and on. Trying to resolve those questions and implement new systems in a 12-24 hour window against the backdrop of laying off at least half of your workforce is challenging, to say the least.

So if your favorite restaurant is trying to throw this Hail Mary, here’s what you can do:

• Order right away for a week or so – you could take a meal to a friend who is struggling with homeschooling three kids while trying to “work from home” (😫😫😫) or an elderly person you know who is nervous to leave his or her home

•. Be patient when your order is messed up/cold/late/difficult to pay for because your favorite restaurant is hopefully not a big chain and not freaking amazon. They may literally be doing it for the first time.

• If you have a skill set that might help (ability to build web pages, graphic design ability to make signs and posters to help them advertise, social media savvy, or knowledge about setting up online credit card payments) and time to help, offer those skills.

• Be patient.
• Be patient.
• Be patient.

• Understand that it may not work anyway, and be supportive either way. Also, understand that there is grief going on behind the scenes either way.

For our businesses, we have one restaurant (The Porch) where a lot of this was already well-incorporated into our system and process, and we will hopefully be able to continue providing that service throughout this time. At Alma, we have made the decision to close completely after two nights of offering take-out only. At Canteen it was simply not feasible to even try because of the overhead of running even a bare-bones operation there because, without drink and product sales, nothing works. It is incredibly, unfathomably hard to watch something you just poured everything into essentially burn down in less than a week, and even harder not to be able to help the creative, hard-working, funny, talented people who helped build it with you.

Thank God we have the window of opportunity that we do at The Porch and Dinners on the Porch, but many independent restaurants do not. So support this last-ditch effort and maybe some independent restaurants will make it to the other side.

(And as a note, I am writing about restaurants because I run restaurants, but I know people in every different situation are suffering the same, so there is no hierarchy of hardship where I’m suggesting you owe anything to restaurants in particular. much of this applies to so many other small businesses and organizations – retail, schools, small non-profits, artists, etc. This horror is facing all of us even if we don’t get sick, so being patient and sticking together is all I can think of to help us weather this season of grief we’re all living through.)
Love to all & thank you again for all of your tremendous support thus far. Onward!

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