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How the Restaurant Industry is Responding to COVID-19

March 13, 2020

Original content c/o: James Beard Foundation

Plus resources for diners, restaurateurs, and chefs

The James Beard Foundation is acutely aware of the health and safety concerns surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are also mindful of how this virus is negatively impacting the hospitality industry at large, both from a well-being and economic standpoint. Novel coronavirus COVID-19 is pushing the restaurant industry to think creatively as travel bans are put into place, cities cancel conventions, and events are postponed until the summer. It’s been great to see the open sharing of information by chefs and restaurateurs with each other and the transparency with customers about expanded health and safety measures.

Plating tomato salad at the Beard House photo by Clay Williams
Photo: Clay Williams

Some of the measures we’re seeing chefs around the country implement are:

  • Increased handwashing, sanitizing, and glove use by staff
  • Asking employees to stay home in the event of fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, in some cases mandating up to a week at home
  • Asking employees to avoid others who may be ill
  • 3X daily disinfection of all kitchen surfaces, equipment, doors, bathrooms, customer surfaces (tables and chairs), and other high-touch areas
  • HOURLY mandatory handwashing breaks
  • Thermometers provided to each restaurant location to check for fever of any employee who seems sick
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes available at reservation station for guests as they check in
  • Paper towels offered in restrooms and for wiping tables
  • Moving or removing tables to expand space between tables and customers

In addition, to reduce waste and costs, we’re seeing restaurants keeping food purchases to a minimum by removing specials and creating limited menus.  

Other Ways to Support the Industry

Many restaurants have been sending emails or posting on social media about the extra precautions they’re taking to make restaurants as safe to eat in as possible, but there are also other ways to support restaurants:

  • Gift cards: consider buying a gift card (or cards). Doing so potentially gives a restaurant immediate income and the gift certificate can be redeemed at a later date.
  • Delivery: consider ordering delivery. It's not risk-free, and most delivery companies take a cut of the cost of the meal, but it's a way to patronize your favorite restaurant without leaving your house.
  • Stock up strategically: fill your refrigerator and pantry with supplies from small businesses or restaurant-markets, in addition to grocery stores.

COVID-19 Resources

We are also building a list of resources for the industry, along with articles and examples of how the industry is responding to this unprecedented event. Check back soon for updates as we receive information.

Practice-Sharing Resources

  • Media outlets such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and The Counter are sharing insights and advice from chefs and restaurants around the country as they adapt to life under the pandemic.
  • Union Square Hospitality shared a video earlier this week from founder CEO Danny Meyer on the efforts they’re making within their restaurant group.

Health Care Resources

Resources for Businesses

As of Friday, March 13, Grubhub is temporarily suspending commission fees up to $100 million for affected independent restaurants.

Cities around the country are putting together emergency funds to help workers impacted by COVID-19. We’ll update this list as new information comes in.

  • Austin: the Southern Smoke Foundation is administering a fund that directly benefits those in the Austin culinary community impacted by the cancellation of South by Southwest. For more information visit:
  • New York: starting Friday, March 13, at 5:00 PM, all venues in the state seating 500 people or less must reduce their capacity by 50 percent, including restaurants and bars. The de Blasio administration announced steps to help small businesses stave off layoffs and closures. The city will offer businesses with fewer than 100 employees interest-free loans of up to $75,000, if they can demonstrate sales decreases of 25 percent or more.
  • Seattle: Amazon is establishing a $5 million fund to help Seattle small businesses — like bars, restaurants, and food trucks — offset the sales lost from the company’s work-from-home decree and help pay employees. The company announced that small businesses located in Seattle’s South Lake Union and Regrade neighborhoods can apply for a grant from Amazon. Amazon will prioritize grants for businesses that rely on foot traffic to attract customers and that can provide information showing how much revenue they expect to lose this month. Amazon says it will disperse the grants in April, and will provide more information on its company blog in the coming days about how to apply.
  • San Francisco: the city will allow qualifying small businesses to defer payment to the tax collector on their next round of quarterly taxes, due April 30, until February 2021. The city will provide additional tax relief by deferring the collection of permitting fees that businesses like restaurants and bakeries pay for at least three months.

Stay updated with the latest information regarding James Beard Foundation events and programs in light of COVID-19.


If you have resources or tips to add to this list, please reach out at