It’s no secret that COVID-19 hit local business’ sales hard. A recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that over 60% of local businesses experienced revenue loss during the pandemic. Another estimate determined more than 97,000 have permanently closed due to the pandemic. These numbers do not include businesses that shut down temporarily during lockdowns.
Local businesses need to adapt their business practices in order to still make a profit. This is especially true to the restaurant and bar industry. Food delivery has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak. But coming from a former restaurant worker (I worked at a restaurant from March through September during Pennsylvania’s lockdowns), the pandemic damaged the service industry as a whole.
Just two months into the pandemic, 8 million restaurant and bar employees were out of work. This is three times the job losses than any other industry. Some restaurants have opened up for dine-in since May, but many are either still closed or struggling with takeout and delivery services.
All local businesses need help now that students are on campus, but restaurants and bars are the most important. Now that winter break is over, students need to show their support. And while many cities like Athens have set up small business relief funds, these businesses are still struggling.
So as support for buying from local businesses increases, these are some important factors to consider when doing so:
Ordering from third party delivery apps like Grubhub and Doordash does not really support local businesses. It’s a common misconception because you’re still purchasing from the business. However, the amount of fees and commissions that these apps take from business’ profits is startling. And for businesses that don’t use their own delivery drivers, all tips and service fees go to the delivery apps instead of the restaurant.
If you are currently at risk, quarantining or experiencing symptoms, then it’s better to show support through third-party delivery apps than none at all. However, ordering takeout or delivery through the restaurant, buying gift cards or dining in are the best ways to support local restaurants.
The biggest thing to do is tipping. You wouldn’t normally think to tip for take-out items, but it really does make a big difference. These food service workers are forced to do take-out in order to make an income during recent shutdowns, especially when the restaurant dining room isn’t open. And even for some restaurants who are open for dine-in, these servers rely on tips now more than ever. The average hourly wage for a server is $7.53.
The last way to support local restaurants and bars is completely free of charge: post on social media. Retweeting from businesses’ accounts and reposting a new menu item on Instagram are still showing your support and is a huge help to businesses.
Now is the time to show your support for Athens local businesses. I’m not saying you need to stop purchasing from your favorite chains, but try to implement small changes and really explore places. The great thing about Athens is that we have many local restaurants where you can’t get anywhere else (Ciro, Fry’d and Donkey Coffee being some of my personal favorites). So it would be a shame not to check them out.
The pandemic hurt so many businesses, but we need to support these restaurants and bars before it's too late. Otherwise, they might just be another addition to those who have permanently closed.
Hannah Campbell is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hannah by tweeting her at @hannahcmpbell.