Original post appeared in Herald Tribune as a Guest Editorial by Michael Klauber on March 17, 2020. View the article here.
Hundreds of thousands of people dine in restaurants all across the Gulf Coast every day. Our region has an international reputation as a world-class dining destination. Our well-traveled residents have helped by supporting and nurturing our vibrant restaurant scene. Restaurants are a driving force in our region’s economy and play a vital role in our community.
Especially in a tourism-driven economy like ours, restaurants are considered “second responders” in times of disaster or crisis. Whether the crisis we’re facing is a hurricane or a pandemic, restaurants are an important part of the support needed for communities to recover, as we are places to celebrate and share together in the human experience. Our local history of restaurateurs and chefs working together to help organizations in need is a longstanding tradition in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.
The COVID-19 concern is real, and it’s important to know that our local restaurants respect the risks associated with the public spaces we provide for our guests. Our first emails of the day are now the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Restaurant Association.
As most people know, our local restaurateurs’ generosity provides gift certificates, food, and staff for fundraising events and more. That ongoing commitment to our region enables schools, arts organizations, and hundreds of local nonprofits to continue their important work.
Money earned by hard-working hourly staff members in the restaurant industry enables them to support themselves and their families, and fund their countless dreams for the future. Our restaurants are as culturally diverse, in the broad international cross-section of our employees, as we are in the cuisine that we offer.
Our regional independent restaurants are a strong community of professionals who work together, not just in times of need, but in the individual challenges that we all face daily.
These local restaurants strive for clean health inspection reports because it’s the right thing to do. Strict sanitation practices ensure that guests keep coming back to gather around tables, enjoy wonderful meals and make special memories.
Restaurant employees depend on income from tips and shifts, which they especially count on in peak season. Higher sales from March and April are what help local business owners and employees weather the slower summer months.
Our local independent restaurants need your support now, more than ever. Your favorite local eatery does not have the security blanket of a corporate infrastructure.
We are all working together, staying calm and working smart. Even our valets are now sanitizing the touchable surfaces in the cars they park!
No matter how many cases arise in our region, we know that many businesses will be affected. The restaurant business is the business of making people happy — and that means offering a safe place for small groups to continue gathering, celebrating, and retaining as much sense of normalcy as possible.
As we look at an immediate future with very few visitors to our area, I encourage you — even if you do not feel up to dining in a restaurant — to take advantage of the creative ways that the hospitality industry can continue to serve you and your family. Support your independent restaurateurs by purchasing gift certificates now for future dining, ordering curbside pick-up or delivery, or trusting them to provide a safe experience when you do walk in their doors.
We all know that eventually, this situation will subside and, God willing, with minimal impact on human life. Everyone in the hospitality industry appreciates your cooperation and patience.
Thank you for your ongoing loyalty and support. We all look forward to showing you our proud and smiling faces as you return to our establishments!
Michael Klauber is co-proprietor of Michael’s On East and co-founder of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, a group of over 60 locally-owned restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee County.