It’s safe to say that the landscape and joie de vivre of social dining has drastically changed over the past two weeks in the Triad. The disruption of daily work and home life is creating a ripple effect. Plans change from moment to moment, and the hospitality industry is stepping up. 

“We’re all in a moment of having to take it all in stride,” says Kris Fuller, owner of Crafted, The Art Of The Taco. “We have to do what’s best for the public’s safety.”

Restaurants, the small-business community and state government are supporting diners’ efforts to achieve social distancing.NC Governor Roy Cooper announced an executive order on Tuesday for all restaurants and bars in the state to close except for takeout and delivery orders. 

The move aims to lessen the spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — by limiting interactions between large groups of people.  

The order took effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday and also includes an expansion of unemployment benefits. 

Several restrictions on state unemployment benefits have been lifted in order for more people to qualify and to reduce the cost to businesses, Cooper said Tuesday at a news conference. 

Under Cooper’s new order, employees who don’t entirely lose their jobs due to coronavirus closures but do see their hours cut will, in some cases, be able to qualify for unemployment benefits. 

Winston-Salem restaurant industry T-shirts: 
Virtual Tip Jar for Greensboro restaurant employees:

Even before the order, restaurants across the Triad began reducing their menus, adding family-style menu options, offering delivery, increasing take-out options, adding curbside pick-up and encouraging increased use of food delivery apps such as Takeout Central, Door Dash, Grubhub, UberEats and locally owned start-up delivery service Swipeby.

Launched in May 2019, the Winston-Salem- based company has more than 50 area restaurants available on their app. Available for both Apple and Android users, there are no fees associated with the app and the food prices are the same as if you were dining in a restaurant. 

“Over 200 units have approached us via email and our website nationwide,” says Carl Turner, owner of Swipeby, Carl Turner. “Restaurants can be online in about five hours. The outbreak has accelerated our growth plan exponentially.” 

Another population facing changes are hourly and tipped employees of the hospitality industry. In an effort to combat the financial blow to the community, Peyton Smith, owner of Mission Pizza Napoletana in downtown Winston-Salem created a fundraiser to give funds directly to affected parties. Smith is leading the charge with online sales of T-shirts and merchandise with the names of select restaurants located all across the city. The design is simple: 10 restaurants on a baseball-style shirt. 

“I always wanted to use the shirts as a sort of galvanizing tool and raise money for something with it,” Smith says. “I just didn’t know what exactly until COVID came into our lives and it became clear that people are about to have major financial struggles.” 

Smith paints a picture of how he is in a privileged position, so he believes he has a duty to try to help. 

“I will begin to distribute to anyone in the Winston-Salem food-service community with a demonstrative need,” he says. “I have an obligation to those who put their faith in me to distribute it prudently and effectively.” 

While the ways and means of distribution are up in the air, Smith believes this grassroots effort will make a difference. Online groups and social-media users are steadily encouraging their networks to purchase gift cards and gift certificates to their favorite eateries to use at a later date. This grassroots effort is in response to restaurants slowed foot traffic and volume of business. Those who need to cancel reservations and appointments are encouraged to purchase gift cards in lieu of face-to-face visits. These efforts help generate instant cash flow to local businesses. 

Sharon Reiss, organizer of group Winston-Salem Dining Out and More, created a public thread on Facebook to share links to restaurants’ online gift card sales. Reiss says her members want to contribute in any way they can. 

“They know they want to be safe but support the businesses as long as they can,” Reiss says.

Health and safety recommendations regarding the epidemic change almost daily. As more information becomes available, contact your favorite local restaurants directly by phone, website and social media channels to support them through this difficult time.  

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