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The Impact of COVID-19 on the Atlanta Restaurant Community

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Pictured from left to right: Chef Deborah VanTrece from Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, Chef Seven Chang from Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles, and Chef Jamie Adams from il Giallo and Lagarde

On March 19, 2020 Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order limiting Atlanta restaurants to take out services; closing bars, gyms and other businesses in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. But the truth is, many restaurants had already made the decision to suspend dine-in options long before that, switching to takeout and delivery only, or in some heartbreaking cases closing doors completely. Deborah VanTrece, executive chef of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, was worried about the health of her staff and customers which led her to temporarily close her restaurant with the plan of reopening with a takeout service. “I just couldn't guarantee whether or not the people walking into my restaurant were virus-free,” said VanTrece.

Over the past several days, restaurants have been forced to give their operational strategies a complete overhaul in an effort to pay the bills and pay their employees for as long as possible. Twisted Soul is now offering a “Pay What You Can” takeaway service that includes pre-cooked meals that are packaged to reheat immediately or freeze for later. On the other side of town, the team behind il Giallo and Lagarde are now offering takeout and curbside pick-up only at each of their restaurants. Restaurant owners are having to get creative to survive.

And while the restaurants themselves are struggling, the biggest worry comes from not being able to take care of their own staff. “It's not so much about keeping the door open as much as it is us trying to take care of our community – of servers, bus boys, dishwashers. We don't have the luxury of working from home,” says VanTrece. Many restaurants have even created fundraising pages with 100% of the proceeds going towards supporting their staff.

Despite these dark times, the support from the Atlanta community has been overwhelming and truly inspiring. Local influencers have been sharing ways to support local businesses and customers are asking how they can donate and help in other ways. Chef Jamie Adams of il Giallo said there has been a huge amount of support for local restaurants and for the pick-up service they are offering. “The results have given us a tremendous amount of optimism. It's definitely working,” said Adams. Seven Chan of Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles said he has received a large number of Instagram messages and emails from people who care about his restaurants. “The support has been really amazing,” said Chan. Atlanta certainly is not going to let its local restaurants go down without a fight!

So how can we as a community help? VanTrece said, “Support the people who are doing takeaway and delivery.” We all have to eat, right? So why not support our local restaurants in the process. But there are other ways, too. Adams said purchasing gift cards helps with cash flow. “It's a great way to support all of the restaurants. We would love to see people out there buying gift cards at every place they frequent,” said Adams. And the aid goes beyond purchasing, it is also important to stay active online! Chan said to continue doing the digital things like “sharing, posting and leaving reviews.”

Now more than ever, the Taste of Atlanta team embraces our mission to support the restaurant community in every way possible. Our goal is to help rally our thousands of food-loving followers around our struggling friends in the restaurant world and be a resource for all. "Our mission from day one has always been to turn tasters into diners" says Founder and CEO Dale DeSena. "Alongside our restaurant partners, we've weathered the recession, Hurricane Katrina, and other challenges over our 19 years. We've never seen anything quite like this, but we will weather this, too!"

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest on restaurants offering takeout and delivery. Atlanta's food scene and community spirit are unshakable! We invite you to work with us to support our restaurants during these hard times. When this is all over, we will be able to break bread together again as these wonderful establishments welcome us home.