Take the Takeout Pledge – As 2020 draws to a close, we find ourselves very much in the middle of a crisis for the restaurant industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, one in six restaurants has closed permanently or long-term, nearly 3 million employees are still out of work and the industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the end of the year. Independent restaurants – those run by their owners and not affiliated with a corporate chain — are being hit especially hard. While the prospect of a vaccine by spring brings us considerable hope, it is likely that the restaurant industry is changing forever. What that looks like, we cannot say.
When we reflect on what we miss the most right now, 10 months into the pandemic, it’s the warmth of hugging friends and family and the joy of gathering together – in café’s, restaurants, and music venues. So much of what we experience as community in this country is facilitated by the hospitality of the independent restaurant industry. They set the table for us to gather, connect and celebrate. They define the character of our public spaces, anchor our main streets and bring vibrancy to our downtowns. So it is deeply troubling that at this critical juncture, independent restaurants have been left to fend for themselves without federal support.
Firsthand Foods recently celebrated its 10th year in business and it’s safe to say that without independent restaurants, we might not exist. When we were just getting started, it was chefs and independent restaurant owners who demanded fresh, local ingredients. It was chefs who were looking for ways to help sustain small-scale farmers. It was chefs who understood that ingredients don’t magically arrive on a refrigerated truck but are grown in the soil by real, hard-working people. It was chefs who appreciated the interconnectedness of flavor and farming practices – that good stewardship and humane treatment yield a great eating experience. We have learned so much from their leadership and the local food movement in this region would be nowhere without them.
Until the pandemic forced us to pivot, chefs and independent restaurant owners were our primary customers. While their numbers are down, there are many who continue to serve our community – providing take-out menus, grocery items, curbside pick-up, meal-kits and outdoor dining experiences. Their ingenuity and persistence is impressive and we encourage you to support them this winter so they can make it through to the spring. We encourage you to take the Takeout Pledge, launched in Durham, but applicable where ever you live, and and commit to ordering take-out from independent restaurants 1-2 times per week.