It is difficult to think of anything other than the Coronavirus and the devastating effects it has already had on the restaurant industry. We will be talking about this impact for the unforeseeable future. But while the pandemic may drastically alter how restaurants operate, and whether they are even able to remain open, it’s not taking away the heart and soul of an industry that has always been about serving communities.

In efforts to contain the outbreak and flatten the curve of those who contract the new virus, local and state governments have put restrictions in place that require many restaurants to switch to off-premise models. Amidst the media firestorm surrounding the health and economic impact of this pandemic, the restaurant industry is finding creative ways to offer support to help their communities through this otherwise stressful time.

Many chains are offering free delivery, such as Del Taco, &Pizza, KFC, Chipotle and others. Whether through a third-party provider or internal, ramping up delivery efforts is helpful for those remaining at home, and additionally health care workers who are working extended hours and don’t have a lot of time to prepare or shop for food.

Others are offering promotions in the form of free food or add-ons. The Cheesecake Factory is sending out orders with a complimentary slice of cheesecake to offer their guests “some happiness during this time of uncertainty,” according to Donald Evans, their chief marketing officer. Smoothie King is giving away free Immune Support Enhancers as a smoothie add-on for the rest of the month. Pollo Campero announced that anyone in uniform will get a free meal, to support health workers, law enforcement and first responders.

Whiskey Cake, a Front Burner brand, is selling daily kits, including a curbside “Quarantine Kit” that included eggs, milk, butter, toilet paper and other staples they have an abundance of that are also harder to find in supermarkets as consumers keep clearing the shelves. Others are taking advantage of lightened restrictions on alcohol sales in their cities by providing half priced wine or margarita pitcher specials to complement food take-out orders.

Others are using their philanthropic arms to make an impact. Panda Cares, the philanthropic arm of Panda Express, announced a $2 million commitment to Feeding America. This donation was matched by a $1 million donation from the Co-Founders and Co-CEOs that will go towards a Coronavirus response fund to provide aid to families affected by the pandemic.

“At Panda, we have been empowering youth and underserved communities through health and education efforts for over 20 years, and we will continue to do that in the face of adversity,” said Dr. Peggy Cherng, Co- Founder and Co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group. “With everything that is happening, it is more important than ever that we all come together as a family to do our part to support those who need it the most.”

The generosity goes both ways. A number of grassroots initiatives, nonprofits and companies in other industries are finding ways to help restaurants and their workers. The Dining Bond Initiative, for example, seeks to drive cash to restaurants by selling gift cards for future purchases. Relief funds have also been set up to provide relief to individual workers and create zero-interest loans to restaurants, such as the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund or the USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program that is receiving help from Jameson Irish Whiskey.

While the impact from the pandemic continues to evolve at a local, state, federal and global level, restaurants and their communities are finding ways to support each other and band together during this time of crisis. These actions from restaurants clearly show the true nature of arguably, the best industry on the planet.

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