5 ways you can help your favorite local restaurant survive this Wisconsin winter

MADISON, Wis.– As the temperatures drop, so do the number of people eating inside local restaurants. With tighter coronavirus restrictions in place and limited, comfortable outdoor dining options, one-third of all Wisconsin restaurant owners fear they won’t be in business six months from now, unless something changes… and fast.

The Food Fight restaurant group, based in Madison, is already planning for a difficult winter. While many of its restaurants like Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, and Bar Corallini remain open, the same can’t be said for several of the group’s other businesses. The Avenue Club and Bubble Up Bar, Fresco, Johnny Delmonico’s Steakhouse, and most recently, the Eldorado Grill have all temporarily closed. Food Fight managers hope to reopen by spring or whenever the number of COVID-19 cases goes down.

Some restaurants around Madison are experimenting with dining igloos, fire pits, and outdoor heated tents to make it through the colder months, but many are quickly finding the cost of trying to make it through the pandemic is too much.

And here’s the real problem: When local restaurants close, even partially, thousands of local workers are left without work.

9% of all Wisconsin employees work in the food service industry, according to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. With little help from the government right now, our neighbors in need need your support. Jordan Bright, Managing Partner for Food Fight Inc., said he’s been inspired to see how Madison locals have stepped up so far.

“It’s been the most uplifting part of the pandemic,” Bright said. “Seeing our customers not just supporting our restaurants, but supporting our whole community. Whether that’s through us or personally. There’s just a lot of people out there doing a lot of work to make sure our community is as comfortable as it can be during a really crazy time.”

Bright expects the next four months to be even more challenging than the past eight.

Here are five ways you can help your favorite restaurant survive:

  1. Dine out, safely. If you’re healthy and able, you can still eat inside at many restaurants. Right now, indoor dining in Dane County is capped at 25%. Diners are required to wear masks when they’re not at their tables, and local restaurants have increased their sanitization protocols. With limited capacity, restaurant suggest you make an online reservation. You can do that online through websites like OpenTable.
  2. Tip even more than usual. With fewer tables at each restaurant, service industry workers are relying on generous tips now more than ever. Don’t forget to also tip on to-go orders; it takes time to nicely package your food! Madison’s virtual tip jar, which was created back in March as a way to directly help service industry workers pay their bills, is also still up and running. Click here to make a direct ‘surprise’ tip to a specific or randomized local server.
  3. Buy gift cards to your favorite local restaurants. Many local businesses are offering special deals heading into the holiday season. For example, Food Fight is giving customers who buy $100 worth of gift cards a coupon book with more than $100 of additional deals that can be redeemed at 16 of its restaurants. The coupons are valid through the end of 2021.
  4. Order directly from individual restaurants whenever possible. Businesses have to pay third-party commissions on deliveries from sites like Grubhub or DoorDash. So before you order online, call the business first. Many will send their workers to deliver your food. Don’t forget to tip the driver!
  5. Donate to local GoFundMe pages. Several restaurants on the brink of closing have turned to crowdsourcing to stay afloat. Consider donating to their online pages. Our partners at Madison Magazine have compiled a list of more than a dozen.