Portland’s restaurant market is suffering right now, and the solution is complicated. As COVID-19 spreads throughout Oregon, watching the exponential growth of the virus in Washington and California has encouraged many Oregonians to consider or begin practicing social distancing, avoiding public spaces and large groups of people in an effort to combat the outbreak.
It’s not an outrageous practice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started suggesting social distancing in places with outbreaks, especially for highly susceptible parties. Several writers and doctors have suggested social distancing as a tool to fight the spread of this novel coronavirus. Even the World Health Organization suggests social distancing involving people who are showing symptoms.
However necessary it is, restaurants and bars will likely feel that social distance particularly hard. A restaurant is a public space, after all, and a sharp drop in business could, potentially, force many restaurants to close. It’s already happened in Seattle and New York; most of these closures were announced as temporary, though it’s unclear when any of these locations will reopen. That uncertainty can be disastrous for restaurant workers and the food industry at large, who rely on a packed dining room to make a living.
For those looking for a small way to support local businesses while also choosing to social distance, buying restaurant gift cards is a decent solution. The choice to invest in a future meal gives restaurant owners something to work with in the interim. Portland restaurants like Departure, Imperial, Stella Taco, Toro Bravo restaurants, Erizo, and Nostrana all have online order options for gift cards. Restaurant group Chefstable offers gift cards redeemable at all of its restaurants, which includes places like Grassa, Ox, St. Jack, and XLB. Even if the restaurant doesn’t advertise gift cards, it’s worth it to send an email or call the restaurant — Places like Yonder and Masia take digital gift card orders over the phone, and Berlu takes gift card orders via email. Many places may start offering gift cards as a stop-gap measure.
Not every restaurant offers gift cards, of course, and there are other options to avoid social contact while also supporting restaurants: Places like Eem have started offering takeout for people who feel unsafe dining in, and delivery apps like Postmates are absolutely stacked with options. Still, as everyone braces for the months ahead, those gift certificates can serve as a meal to look forward to once everything settles down.
• More COVID-19 coverage [Eater]