Easy ways to boost morale of DC-area restaurant workers

Tipping well is the obvious way to make restaurant workers feel appreciated, but it’s not the only way. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/DisobeyArt)

D.C.-area restaurants appreciate any business they’re getting right now, but they face a difficult winter ahead with new restrictions on indoor dining and colder weather making outside dining less appealing.

It will make take-out and delivery even more important, and there are simple things patrons can do to help beyond just ordering out.

If the plastic cutlery and paper napkins aren’t necessary, say so when ordering. Order more food, such as splurging on dessert, or order lunch for the next day at the same time.

Gift cards purchased now for use next spring are a revenue shot for restaurants.

Ordering take-out or delivery directly if available saves restaurants the third-party delivery app commissions they must pay.

Tipping generously if possible is an obvious way to show support for restaurant workers, but some things don’t have anything to do with money at all.

“They can be a little extra kind. If they are ordering on the phone, just one nice little comment. Or if they are ordering digitally, type in a kind note. Making these front-line restaurant workers feel seen and appreciated really goes a long way,” Dan Simons of Farmers Restaurant Group told WTOP.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland reports that 89% of Maryland restaurant operators expect their sales to decrease from current levels in the next three months. Another 45% say it is unlikely their restaurants will still be in business six months from now without additional relief packages.

Meanwhile, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington reports a 112% increase in the number of restaurant closings this year. Restaurant employment in the Washington region is 40% of its normal workforce.

Simons has managed to keep all seven of his D.C.-area Founding Farmers restaurant locations open. But several local restaurants are now opting to hunker down, cut overhead and close for the winter, with hopes of reopening next spring.

That’s a gamble.

“I am hopeful that any restaurant that has to close can reopen, but I have to say, the odds get really difficult. The moment you close a restaurant and you hope it’s temporary, it is very expensive and difficult to restart and get the momentum you need. I am cheering for our industry, but it is going to be a very difficult winter,” Simons said.

There have been a few high-profile incidents of restaurants flagrantly disregarding capacity and social distancing restrictions. While Simons said he believes it is rare, it is also very concerning.

“It makes me some combination of sad, worried and angry. I worry for the workers in those restaurants. There is a way to run restaurants safely right now, and it strikes me as incredibly selfish when anybody doesn’t want to follow the math and the science and the rules. We’d be in a much better situation as an industry if everybody just did what they’re supposed to do,” Simons said.

The National Restaurant Association says nationwide, more than 110,000 restaurants are now permanently or long-term closed, the equivalent of one in six restaurants.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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