Here’s How You Can Help Local Restaurants and Shops Right Now

As you continue to take care of yourself, here are some easy ways to also support local businesses.

Would you feel better eating in the comfort of your own home? Order takeout, then. Taqueria el Barrio is open for business. / Photo by Isabel Roeder

As the coronavirus crisis continues, many bars and restaurants are reeling from the short-term effects on business, and anxious about the potential for long-term impact. (Read: Layoffs and closings.) As you continue to take care of yourself, consider a few ways to help.

Keep calm, and carry out. On Sunday, March 15, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a ban on on-site consumption at all Massachusetts restaurants, effective Tuesday, March 17, through April 7. All restaurants can offer takeout or delivery if that’s a viable option. Online delivery services are getting on board with no-contact delivery policies.

Leave cash at home. Paper money is gross in the best of times, so whenever possible right now, consider using an alternative form of payment. Order online and pay with your credit card to minimize handling check presenters and pens. (Hand sanitizer really is helpful, though!) In-person, ask a restaurant or store if you can read your credit card number to them verbally, or even use your phone to pay.

Avoid the supermarket panic and shop local. Empty shelves are the new normal at big-box grocery stores, and who really needs more stress right now? Pay a visit to independently owned shops and markets like Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and the South End, Russo’s Produce in Watertown, American Provisions in Southie and Dorchester, Happy Market in JP, and your own neighborhood shops for items you need at home. Like chain restaurants, big-box stores are probably going to weather this crisis with help from large-scale investors. The mom-and-pops don’t have such support.

Buy gift cards and swag. Support local restaurants right now, even if you don’t want to leave your house, by purchasing a gift card over the phone or through a restaurant’s website. While buying gift cards doesn’t necessarily put money in the pockets of tipped workers like servers and bartenders, it does help your favorite businesses shore up their reserves now so they can make it through this uncertain time. The same goes for buying T-shirts, hats, glassware, and other merchandise from local brands. Been eyeing that five-panel hat from your favorite brewery for a while? Order it now.

Sign up for a subscription. It’s not only traditional restaurants that are seeing a decline in business right now. Local product lines like Top Shelf Cookies, which sells its treats at farmers’ markets, events, and at local shops, are also feeling the effects of a self-isolating public. Top Shelf sells a Cookie Of the Month subscription service, which delivers a new flavor right to your door for a set period of time. Streetcar Wine and Beer and Gracenote Coffee Roasters offer similar programs. Like buying a gift card now to support a local restaurant, consider signing up for a recurring way to support your favorite local businesses.

Sign up for future classes. This too shall pass. Give yourself something to look forward to and sign up for a future dumpling-making class with Mei Mei, a smoking or sauce class with the Smoke Shop BBQ, a mixology lesson with No. 9 Park, and other local lessons.

Tip well. Always, but especially now. We’re all in this together.

This post was updated on March 16, after Gov. Charlie Baker banned on-premise consumption at all Massachusetts restaurants.