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This week's tablehopper: the struggle is too real.

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The extraordinarily delicious miso ramen I had delivered from Kirimachi. Read more about their ramen kits in my post on Instagram. Four servings for $40! #supportsmallbusiness Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, friends. How are you doing? I’m sure each of you has a different answer. Sending love and best wishes and I hope you’re getting support from your community. Now is the time to ask for any help—there are a lot of people offering time, support, services, money, food, resources, and even just listening (since we can’t hug right now). And if you have anything to give, it’s all so appreciated. Keep on looking out for each other.

I’ve been blown away with the outpouring of support from the restaurant community, with many individual businesses rallying and raising funds to feed healthcare workers right now, like Escape from New York Pizza, Le Marais, Square Pie Guys, Esposto’s, Andytown (you can buy coffee, pastries, wellness shots from Happy Moose, and Nana Joe’s granola bars for local hospitals and senior care facilities). Plus, if you’re a hospital worker, places like The Melt and Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley will feed you if you show your badge. Please click the links to learn how to support these businesses in their efforts!

Restaurants have been signing up for the SF Clinicians Meal Support Restaurant Program to feed hospital staff, and there are also resources like the newly launched Feed The Line, where people can donate to pay restaurants to make food for overworked healthcare professionals. It’s a win-win: 100 percent of proceeds go to local restaurants, and the food they prepare goes to doctors and nurses. Contribute or sign up! Same goes for Feed the Frontlines, which includes charities. I was also happy to read this article about authors Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon donating and privately raising money to feed healthcare workers with food from East Bay restaurants. Keep it up!

There are also many programs and generous restaurants doing all they can to feed the community. You can support Bistro SF in their affordable meal plan, Horn Barbecue is raising money to feed the community (they launched their first free meal today outside of their Oakland restaurant), Tacos El Patrón is offering food and grocery boxes to anyone in need, and sister companies Mixt and Split have pay-what-you-can and pay-it-forward meals.

Up in Sonoma, Single Thread is offering a daily menu for pickup, and working in partnership with @sonomafamilymeal and Corazon Healdsburg to produce 200 meals a day from their kitchen for local families in need. Order and contribute on their Tock page. Che Fico keeps chugging along with their awesome family meal, now feeding up to 250 people for free nightly (you can donate, or order a meal and pay for it in support of their efforts).

And if you’re a restaurant/bar/service industry worker experiencing hardship, here’s a list of many resources to help you.

I’ve been posting about all these programs on @tablehopper on Instagram in my Stories as I hear about them, and archiving them in my Highlights. Please follow along to keep up and support these businesses, as well as the restaurants fighting to stay open by offering takeout, delivery, and now cocktails.

I also want to point you to the many ideas in this James Beard Foundation newsletter on how you can help save restaurants. Speaking of, here’s a petition for you to sign called Save Restaurants, thank you.

And last but definitely not least, if there is any way you can please help La Cocina support their many businesses, it would help more people than you can imagine (starting with their families). First, here’s a list of all their restaurants that have pivoted to takeout/delivery, linking to their GoFundMe pages, gift certificates, and more. La Cocina has also established the La Cocina Emergency Relief Fund to provide much-needed and most immediate financial support to their entrepreneurs.

Launching Friday March 27th, is the La Cocina Community Food Box, with prepared foods from ten La Cocina restaurants in one box (each restaurant is providing an item that is about 2-4 servings). 100 percent of total sales go directly to the businesses. They’re planning for a twice-weekly pick-up. The first box has sold out (awesome!), but please subscribe to La Cocina for updates on the next sale (scroll to the bottom of the web page) and keep an eye on their shop. 

If you can find a moment to read this op-ed by José Andrés, you’ll be inspired and ready to support this man in any way you can.

And now, I have a request. I’m really running out of bandwidth over here, and some of you kindly offered to help me last week, which I really appreciate, so very much! (Huge thanks again to Sean Timberlake for proofreading my column today!)

I’m now looking for someone to help me write and launch a petition on behalf of the restaurant industry. If you have experience in this realm (marketing, PR, outreach, policy) and some spare time to help, I’d love to hear from you. I’m also going to need someone to help create some graphics. Thank you, angels!

Sending love and support and remote hugs. Be well, be kind, and try to rest well and get some good sleep. We need you healthy and strong—this is a marathon.

Love,
~Marcia

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Mar 25, 2020

A Checklist for Restaurants/Small Businesses: Free Ways to Help Boost Your Signal

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@squarepieguys has useful info listed on their Instagram bio: hours and a call-to-action/link to their online ordering.

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Clear and effective messaging from @sonsaddition on Instagram about their new takeout.

Dear restaurants and food businesses and bars that serve food and wine shops and cafés and vendors and anyone else who is desperately trying to pivot and stay open right now:

Thank you for all your efforts. We’re so sorry for all the struggle and loss and overwhelming fear and hard decisions. But there are ways to help your customers support you! As someone who has been looking at thousands of Instagram accounts and websites and Yelp pages trying to confirm and find information during this crisis, it made me want to write this checklist for you on free ways to help get the word out about your business and share/update your status and current offering.

I know you have a million things you’re doing right now, it’s a scramble, and you have limited resources and time. But think about asking for help! Break this list apart into action items and send to your coworkers, your publicist, your rockstar customers who want to help you. There’s more help out there than you may think.

SOCIAL MEDIA

-Is your Instagram account current? Update your bio with your hours, what you’re offering (takeout? delivery? curbside?), list your delivery partners, and be sure to include a link to your website or current menu. (If you are temporarily closed, please let your customers know.)

-Create a post with a picture of what you’re currently offering, and let people know how to get it. Announce your new meal kits, and show your followers how delicious they look! You can do a food pic, or even a few, and then a snapshot of your current menu for the second image.

-Some hashtags to add: #supportsmallbusiness #saverestaurants #savehospitality #toosmalltofail

-Try to do a daily update in your Stories. Share a pic of your menu, your special, your cocktail carafe, a video of your staff, you! Remind people you’re still open! It’s quick and effective.

-Do you need to close for the day, or a few? Send out a Story and a Post so your followers know you’re taking a break (and when you plan to be back).

-Ask your customers to share a picture of their meal/beverage from you and tag you!

-Reshare any Stories or posts people tag/feature you in—they’re creating easy content for you to share.

-Any posts/Stories you do on Instagram, push them to your Facebook page.

-I’m also seeing restaurants run sponsored ads on Instagram for more visibility…

-Try some live video content! From a mini cooking show in your kitchen to a message from the owner, everyone is creating video content to help put a face to all these takeout meals.

-Do you still have a Twitter account? Time to brush it off, update it, and send a post with your hours and menu—you have followers for a reason!

MAPS

Get added to these maps that list who is open and doing takeout/delivery (and tag them in your Instagram post): Edible SF’s map and tag @ediblesf; Dining at a Distance and tag @diningatadistance; The Chronicle; and Woso and tag @wososf.

EMAIL

-Do you have an email list? Send out an email about what you’re offering (did you just start offering cocktails to go?), your menu, your hours, a link to your social media accounts, how your customers can help support you!

-Some restaurants are sending daily emails with menu updates, or once a week with a weekly menu.

YELP

-Be sure to update your hours.

-Yelp is now offering the ability to add a GoFundMe link to your page, as well as matching funds—check it out.

-Take a look at some additional offers right now, from free advertising support (if you offer delivery or takeout, they will set up a $100 Yelp Ads campaign free of charge for the month of April) to access to upgraded page features.

GOOGLE BIZ PROFILE

I’ve been hearing of a bug on Google: restaurants are trying to update their hours on their Business Profile and a bot keeps changing them back. If you know someone at Google who can help, please give them a firm nudge. (You can leave a comment on their latest Twitter post if you’re having the same trouble, follow updates here.) But they just added the ability to mark your status as “temporarily closed.” Some good tips in this article, like setting “holiday hours” and adding an event post.

FUNDRAISING/GCS

-Many businesses are launching crowdfunding/GoFundMe campaigns to raise money, or even creating a virtual tip jar and listing their Venmo handle. Some of your loyal followers will want to contribute and show their support to your employees and business. Make sure to share this to all your channels (social media, email list, website).

-Get added to this spreadsheet of SF restaurant GoFundMe fundraisers.

-Make sure to add your GoFundMe to your Yelp page (see above).

-Many businesses are encouraging their customers to buy gift certificates. Some businesses are offering GCs at a discount, like 25 percent off, as an incentive. Call it out as an option for your customers to help show their support.

-Get your gift certificate offer added here: Save Our Faves.

-Here’s a nationwide gift certificate map of small businesses where you can get listed as well: Help Main Street.

YOUR PHONE

Is your phone ringing, or just going straight to voicemail? Update your outgoing phone message with your hours and options (takeout, delivery, temporarily closed?). Make sure it’s easy for people to contact you, whether it’s a customer with a delivery issue or someone checking to see if you’re open.

SIGNAGE

-I’m seeing restaurants all over the city create signs in their windows, boldly listing what they’re offering, their delivery/takeout hours, their wine discounts, curbside options, their website. You can DIY this, or even better, hire local sign-makers to make it nice!

-And get your sandwich board out on the sidewalk (if you don’t have one—maybe get one?). I also recommend these customizable light-up signs for your window, they really get attention.

Hang in there. We’re all pulling for you!

Thoughts About Safe Delivery (and Takeout)

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My takeout bounty from Nari. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I know we’re all mulling about the safety of ordering takeout versus having food delivered, people are getting upset if their delivery person isn’t wearing gloves, we’re washing our hands like maniacs (good!)…we’re all trying to control our exposure, but imagine how these delivery folks are feeling right now. Trust, they want to lower their exposure as much as possible too. Seeing gloves may feel like a visual cue of cleanliness, but sometimes wearing gloves can be less sanitary (people leave them on for too long) versus being bare-handed and washing one’s hands more often/using hand sanitizer. Just something to think about.

I checked in with my badass sister, who is a Family Nurse Practitioner, about what would be best practices for receiving takeout/delivery into your home. The good news is the odds are extremely low for contracting coronavirus through food. But before diving in here, I strongly recommend this recently posted and well-researched piece by J. Kenji López-Alt on Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide—he definitely helped bring my OCD down a notch.

If you’re getting food delivered, you want to opt for no-contact delivery, and have them leave it by your door. (If you’re ordering alcohol, be prepared to have to show your i.d.)

Once you bring the bag inside, whether it’s takeout or delivery, don’t automatically place it on your table or counter! You can either lay down some newspaper or something you were planning to recycle, and put the bag on top of that. Or I just put it on the floor.

Wash your hands. Now’s the time to take the food out of the containers, keeping mindful that that exterior of the container could potentially be contaminated as well, so be sure to place the container on a protected surface area as well. Some folks are cleaning/wiping the outside of the containers. You can open the lid, and then wash your hands again. Take the food out and do what you were going to do with it—plate it, eat it, warm it up, whisper sweet nothings to it.

You can place any leftovers into clean containers of your own. And then wash your hands again before you eat. Don’t touch your face. And give any surface area a good cleaning after you’re all finished. Wash your hands again!

One more thing: if you live in an apartment building, take good care of yourself AND your neighbors! Spray/clean the doorknobs, door buzzers, mailboxes, handrails, and any other high-contact places in your building, daily. Cleanliness is truly next to godliness!

A quick note for restaurants:

Restaurants, please continue to keep an eye on what’s happening with couriers coming to pick up food. Are they crowding anywhere? I’ve been hearing of a few popular places getting pretty tight around pick-up areas. Create a safe and socially distant place for pickups—enforce it, keep cleaning it. Thank you.

the matchmaker

Classifieds (let's get it on)
Mar 25, 2020

(Matchmaker): Get Marketing Help for Free

Kim O’Neill is a marketing writer with 15+ years of experience (much of it in food and beverage), and she wants to help small restaurants and retailers during this time. Kim is offering to assist, free of charge, with messaging to customers regarding any changes to their hours, service, and menus, in light of Covid-19. Ideally, any client would have a clear plan in place in terms of what they wanted to tell their customers, and the first step would be filling out a questionnaire about their needs, to see if working with Kim would be a good fit. She’ll write emails, social media posts, and signage in a compassionate way that reflects the business’ brand and helps to build consumer confidence. Kim will be able to take on a limited number of clients. You can reach her here.

All content © 2020 tablehopper, LLC. I am more than happy if you want to link to my reviews and content elsewhere (thanks, glad you dig it), but republishing any part of them in any way, shape or form is strictly prohibited until we talk first. Please take a look at my Creative Commons license for more detail.