Opening a restaurant is a risky business. Even in a normal economy—without a global pandemic—60% of restaurants fail within the first year. Now, with many American cities forcibly closing the doors on all non-essential businesses, restaurants are in a particularly perilous time. According to the National Restaurant Association, COVID-19 is the greatest crisis the industry has ever faced.
In Seattle, one of the American epicenters of COVID-19, restaurants are on lockdown along with the rest of the city. The notoriously proud foodie city has many restaurateurs unsure about the future of their business.
Seattle agency PB& is hoping that gift cards helps lessen the blow. Til We Dine Again is a campaign that streamlines gift cards and allows customers to support local restaurants when they can’t leave their houses. PB& has worked with restaurants in the Seattle area for a long time and its business is intertwined with the restaurants themselves.
“We’ve worked with a lot of local chefs and restaurateurs over the years and they’ve always been great partners,” said Britt Fero, principal founder of PB&. “We wanted to use our talents for good and find a way to help them manage through. It’s not a silver bullet solution, but every gift card can help. It allows people to show their support while still distancing. Plus, let’s face it, we’re all going to want to go out when we get through this anyway.”
America is only in the early stages of a lockdown, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, so when COVID-19 finally passes, the American public will be desperate for social interaction. These gift cards provide an immediate influx of cash in anticipation of that celebration.
“The idea of supporting restaurants by purchasing gifts cards is really important right now as it allows us to pay employees and fixed costs that don’t go away while we’re closed,” said Brian Clevenger, a chef and restaurateur with multiple beloved Seattle restaurants. “With guests showing support this way, it helps us stay in business so we’ll be there when everyone can get back out to their favorite places.”
Clevenger’s restaurants make up four of the 16 locations that have signed on to Til We Dine Again. More restaurants are joining the service and PB& wants to expand the program nationwide so every city’s restaurants are better able to weather the COVID-19 storm.
In other cities, agencies are helping local restaurants in their own ways. In Richmond, Va., The Martin Agency is partnering with DoorDash to highlight restaurants pivoting to delivery by offering employees a credit to use with the company and making a donation to the Richmond Restaurant Workers Relief Fund.
But takeout and delivery aren’t an option everywhere. Anywhere with a mandatory stay-at-home order shouldn’t be relying on delivery, and drivers are potentially spreading the virus. Seattle, San Francisco and New York are in that situation now, but many more American cities will join them soon and gift cards may be the only thing keeping restaurant doors open until COVID-19 passes.