In Dining

Supporting restaurants during the coronavirus outbreak is important.

You can still support restaurants during the coronavirus; here's how

Of all the businesses threatened by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the hospitality industry has the most at stake.

When diners stay home rather than dining out, the impact is far-reaching and significant. Restaurants operate on increasingly thin margins (usually between 3-5 percent), and industry employees often live paycheck to paycheck. The matter is compounded by the relative lack of benefits for a majority of industry workers.

If business falls off, as it's likely to do during a global pandemic, restaurants will suffer. It's not hyperbole to say that some will be forced to close – yes, even in Milwaukee.

But you needn't stand by watching as your favorite places struggle.

Here's what you need to know, and what you can do to help, while keeping yourself healthy and safe.

The impact on restaurants

Restaurants in Milwaukee and the surrounding area are already feeling the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. As panic ensues, more diners are staying at home. Even worse, diners are failing to show up for reservations they've made (often without notice).

Catering, a saving grace for bottom lines across the restaurant industry, is also taking a hit as large gatherings are being cancelled across the city.

As time moves on, fine dining establishments are likely to suffer most, with small neighborhood restaurants following close behind. Even larger multi-unit restaurants will experience losses, forcing them to evaluate operations.

As corporate employees in the metro area are increasingly encouraged to work from home, rather than reporting to the office, Downtown restaurants will suffer from less lunch and dinner traffic. Hotel restaurants will continue to suffer from lack of hotel guests during times of restricted travel. Meanwhile, areas like Old World Third Street, largely trafficked by Fiserv Forum event attendees, are less likely to see regular business.

What restaurants are doing to keep you safe

Owners and operators across the United States, from fast food giants to locally owned restaurants, are more than aware of customer concerns.

The fact of the matter is that restaurants have been meeting food safety and sanitation standards for decades, so they already have effective protocols in place. But they are also implementing extra sanitation and safety plans to assist in minimizing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Most, if not all, are taking the following measures to keep you safe.

  • Many have voluntarily closed.
  • Many are adding carry-out, curbside pick-up or delivery services in place of dine-in. Check out this list for spots in your neighborhood.
  • They are closely monitoring Coronavirus (COVID-19) and staying informed with the most up-to-date information from the CDC, World Health Organization, Wisconsin Department of Health and City of Milwaukee Health Department.
  • They are taking special care to ensure all tables, seats, and surfaces are property disinfected before and after each use.
  • They are implementing additional sanitation processes to ensure cleanliness of plates, glasses, utensils, etc.
  • They are doubling down on hand washing.
  • They are taking every precaution to ensure staff are symptom free, including encouraging employees to stay home if they are not feeling well.

All of that said, be responsible for your own well-being. Use common sense, be observant and ask questions about safety and sanitation practices if you have them.

What you can do

First, understand that there is currently no evidence of food being associated with COVID-19 transmission, according to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the risks are largely associated with interacting with other people.

It's a good idea to stay home, as you decrease the risk of catching or transmitting the disease inadvertantly. However, if you do go out, here are some tips.

Mitigate the risks by following simple guidelines:

  • Stay home if you are sick (any type of sick) or feeling as if you may be getting sick.
  • Stay home if you are pregnant, over the age of 60 or if you suffer from pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.
  • If you are well, dine out or order carry-out. If you'd really like to help, dedicate a portion of your grocery budget (or your entertainment budget) to dining out more frequently.
  • Tip generously.
  • Be patient with slower service; it might be due to understaffing caused by efforts to keep you safe
  • If you are working in an office, consider ordering in lunch from an area restaurant.
  • If you must cancel a reservation you've made, call the restaurant and let them know. Give them as much notice as humanly possible. DO NOT be a no show. Restaurants plan service around reservations. They plan staffing to accommodate you. If you don't show up, they lose out (often big time) on both food and labor costs. The smaller the restaurant, the bigger the loss.

If you choose to leave the house to dine or pick-up food:

  • Avoid crowded restaurants by dining during the week or at less popular times.
  • Don't avoid Asian restaurants due to misconceived notions that they pose a greater risk.
  • Employ common sense. Wash your hands after touching doors, counters, tables or other objects.
  • Avoid self-serve buffets and salad bars.
  • Consider passing on shared or family-style food. If you do partake, don't share plates, utensils, straws or glassware. Use clean silverware and keep your hands out of food that other people might be eating. Don't double dip!
  • Wash your hands after handling money or credit cards (this applies everywhere!). Using Apple Pay is also a great option.

If you would prefer not to dine out (or need to avoid it for health reasons):

Keep abreast of updates

CDC Guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19

Wisconsin Health Department Updates
Milwaukee closings/cancellations/postponements

Wondering about some restaurants to order from? Here are 52 great options.


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