Beyond washing our hands, wearing a mask and social distancing, many of us may feel helpless when it comes to getting our state through the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is another to help: We can eat!
Specifically, we can Eat Local. We can try to eat just one more meal a week from a local restaurant. Local restaurants not only employ our friends and neighbors, but they also cycle our money right back into the local community and often are the first to step up and contribute to local causes.
These are also the kinds of restaurants that are hurting the most during the ongoing pandemic, with many already having closed and many more on the brink of shutting down.
None of us alone can snap our fingers to make COVID disappear and return things to normal for these restaurants. But eating just one more meal a week would have a bigger effect than you might think.
In fact, if everybody switched just one of every 10 out-of-state purchases to a local Michigan option, the state would experience at $1.2 billion increase in economic activity. That’s enough to support 10,600 jobs and an extra $350 million in income across Michigan.
“People too often discount the power of one, but one plus one plus one into infinity makes a huge difference,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan. “Imagine the impact that 10 million people would have if they change their habits to be more intentional about supporting their local businesses.
“If we support our local businesses, they’re keeping people working and everybody benefits. It’s a virtuous circle. One additional purchase this week will make a difference.”
Restaurants all over Michigan are doing what they can to survive, many of them adjusting operations to keep serving the public through the pandemic. They’ve taken the Pure Michigan Pledge to keep guests safe by committing to new health and safety precautions, such as marking spaces on the floor to maintain proper social distancing at ordering counters and installing plastic shields at cash registers. They’ve made call-in and online ordering more efficient, established curbside delivery procedures and started offering home delivery options. Some Michigan restaurants have even made structural changes to their buildings to accommodate walk-up windows for carryout orders or opened greenhouses and igloos for outdoor winter dining!
Most important, restaurant workers have put their own health at risk so that we can enjoy dining out and experience a sense of normalcy through the pandemic.
Now is an opportunity to repay the favor and support our unique local restaurants before it’s too late. We each can help soften the pandemic’s blow to restaurants and restaurant workers all across our state by making a conscious choice to support the local restaurants in our communities.
With local restaurants, it’s not just the fate of the business that’s at stake. These local restaurants support our local schools and youth sports leagues. These local restaurants help make our cities and towns vibrant places. These local restaurants give our local Michigan communities character and personality.
You probably have a few favorite local restaurants. But if you’re looking for more opportunities to Eat Local, here’s a list of local restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside services. Many local Michigan restaurants also have gift cards that make great holiday gifts.
When we eat local – even if it’s just one more time each week – more of the money we spend stays in our local Michigan economy. It also opens us to memorable experiences like these that are happening at local restaurants all over the state:
- Running into masked-up friends and neighbors at a local pizza shop while waiting to pick up online orders on a busy night when a portion of sales are being donated to the local school
- Getting an apology and heartfelt thank you from the manager of a local chicken shack because so many customers placed orders that the restaurant momentarily ran out of chicken!
- Parking outside a local burger joint, placing an order on your phone and having your food brought out to you as if it were an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant
- The joy of giving a local restaurant worker an extra tip for making a curbside delivery right to your vehicle on a cold night
Of all the things 2020 may be remembered for, it would be nice to add a few of these kinds of memories to the list.
“I’m hoping this is going to be a season of thoughtfulness toward each other that goes beyond the traditional holiday sentiment,” Lorenz said. “I’m hoping some of these things we’re doing today will end up being comforting memories in the future.”