Where I live in San Clemente, Calif., we face the same scenario as most everyone does. Part of our town is made up of old residential neighborhoods with longtime residents (and in our case, many surfers) and older buildings in need of repair on the “main drag.” Up the hill we have newer residential neighborhoods with more modern, larger homes and higher-income residents. We don’t have a lot of gas stations, but we have a fair number of supermarkets and have lots of wide streets and roadways which are perfect for runners and cyclists (and recently many e-bike riders).
We all frequent the various restaurants and small shops on our main street—Del Mar—and our part of the famed Pacific Coast Highway (called El Camino Real here in San Clemente). Nearby neighborhoods of Dana Point, Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano also have shops and restaurants, and many residents consider this one giant community. We all support and frequent businesses all around us.
It’s been heartbreaking to watch the ebb and flow of the dining scene. Pre-COVID, there was a thriving cadre of upscale restaurants, some with super creative chefs. We also have the typical fast-casual chains of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Chipotle and there are rumors of an In-N-Out Burger starting construction.
In April and May, we took long walks and drives down El Camino Real and saw virtually no one and no business on the street. Then the summer came, and our little beach town started bustling, many of the restaurants occupied the parking space in front of their buildings with semi-permanent tables and chairs, plus awnings. At least weekly, we did our best to support our community by going out to eat, always dining outdoors of course.
Now, with the most recent surge of COVID cases, some restaurants in our community are offering “Food to Go.” Unfortunately, there are restaurants nearby that have closed completely and permanently. It is so sad to see, as I know many of those restaurants were hanging on by a thread even before the pandemic.
I, like most people, am getting a little tired of cooking at home every night, so ordering in dinner is a welcome treat. Plus, it makes me feel like I am supporting the local restaurant business owners. I know many of my friends and family love to order in food as well, and some of them have chosen to use a delivery service, such as Postmates or DoorDash. You order online through the delivery service and pay them, and they pick your order up at the restaurant and deliver it to your home.
Let me tell you why I do not use a delivery service. It costs a restaurant between 25-30% of the total check to pay for the delivery service. For a restaurant owner to give up 25-30% of their revenue doesn’t make business sense. But many businesses are so desperate to have the income (to keep their employees employed), that they absorb that cost. Of course, using Postmates or DoorDash when you are not able to drive yourself to get food makes sense if you’re not feeling well, or if you have child care challenges, but that is not the case for me.
So, I have decided to make a conscious effort during the current lockdown to:
- Order from a local restaurant at least two times a week (sometimes more). We alternate the restaurant, so we are spreading the wealth. We always order from restaurants in our own town.
- We also go pick up the food ourselves, saving the restaurant the cost of paying a delivery service.
- We tip generously, as we assume the business volume is down so the servers really need and appreciate the generous tips.
I hope that as you are sheltering in place in your home town that you consider supporting local restaurants in a similar manner. As they say “We are all in this together.” We don’t give a second thought to ordering online for our regular groceries or Christmas shopping and having it delivered to our home. But when it comes to perishable food, and supporting our local business owners, I think we should make a mindful decision to “Order In” and make a difference.
Happy Holidays and stay healthy!