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How to support Buffalo restaurants as coronavirus measures take hold

Buffalo restaurants are reeling. Growing consumer fear as a result of COVID-19 and the New York State mandate to operate at 50% maximum capacity, as a precaution, has eaters wary of eating out and restaurateurs already working at a deficit.

For the majority of restaurants, the month of March typically means improving weather and an uptick in business after the slow months of January and February.

"There are a lot of people’s livelihoods that are going to be greatly affected ... typically service industry people aren’t sitting on a rainy day fund," said Jason Davidson, co-owner of the Terrace at Delaware Park. "We hope together with our patrons we can find a responsible balance and keep some economy going."

Davidson mentioned the Terrace is taking extra precautions that include removing dining tables to increase the distance between customers, as well as instructing workers to disinfect to an extreme degree.

"Supporting local businesses is as important as ever, but staying safe is the No. 1 priority," said Taka Win, head chef at Teton Kitchen.

In a time where caution is abundant to limit possible exposure to the novel coronavirus, there are still ways to support restaurants.

Even experienced operators like Coco Bistro's Maura Crawford are struggling to decide on  the right path. (News file photo)

• Go out to eat like normal: Knowing their business is at stake, restaurants and bars are taking every precaution to disinfect surfaces and major touch points such as door handles. Many have added extra measures for customers, too, such as extra sanitizing stations.

"It's simple. Dine out, but select your local and reputable establishment," Bryan Mecozzi, owner of Black Iron Bystro, wrote in a message. "Customers should simply be aware of their surroundings, just as anyone should on a daily basis with or without crisis."

Be generous with your tips, as servers and bartenders rely on that money for income.

• Buy gift cards: Visiting a restaurant's website to purchase a gift card is a risk-free move you can make while still making a local impact. Call it "paying it forward."

• Order takeout or delivery: For those who want to eat restaurant-quality food without excessive human contact, takeout options are plentiful, whether they be through pickup or a third-party delivery business, such as DoorDash or Grubhub.

Those drivers, regardless of their perceived overall impact on local restaurants, are dependent on restaurant business, too.

• Actively look for ways to support local restaurant workers, either short term or long term. Will individual restaurants find ways to raise money for their service workers to offset losses? Will state or federal governments help? Could there be a legislative move toward paid sick leave for restaurant workers?

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