By Jan Norris
By mid-March, Florida’s governor had ordered all restaurants to shut their dining rooms, giving them the options to go to takeout and delivery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
More restrictions may be ordered as things progress, but for now, that’s the situation.
While some restaurants have closed, others are trying to get by, offering takeout or delivery, a weekly meal pickup, or other types of to-go food preparation.
Menus are limited in many cases, manageable for kitchens that are working with skeleton crews after layoffs. Still, they try to accommodate their diners.
Chef Jeremy Hanlon of Benny’s on the Beach in Lake Worth Beach is watching the situation, and for now, offering takeout and delivery.
“It will be interesting to see what the weekend brings,” he told us just after closings were announced. He’s taking it “day by day right now.”
He was cooking off his full menu to start.
Chef Emerson Frisbie of Delray Beach’s 3rd and 3rd has created a bao-bun pop-up. Boxes of the Chinese-style filled buns, with a variety of fillings for both omnivores and vegans, are popular takeouts. He also offers spirits and wine to go.
Alcohol sales may help save restaurants. Jimmy Everett, owner of Driftwood in Boynton Beach, said being able to sell beer, wine and spirits with a meal is “huge.”
Like others, he’s been changing plans day to day as the closures evolve. He offers takeout meals from a limited menu that changes daily.
But the alcohol may help him hold on by a thread.
“If you think about it, alcohol is a huge part of a restaurant inventory. It’s already paid for. Usually people have a lot more in stock than food, because it will keep,” Everett said. If liquor stores close, it will be even more of a sales point.
Rebel House in Boca Raton is offering family meals — enough to feed four, as a pickup. “Latke’d & Loaded” was a recent choice, with brisket, latkes, carrots and peas. A gluten-free Italian meatloaf with mac ’n’ cheese and Brussels sprouts were served another night. It’s comfort fare for stressful times.
Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton already had a takeout audience, but now it’s 100% of the business. Pizzas and Italian specialties, and wines, are served for pickup or delivery.
Crazy Uncle Mike’s in Boca Raton offers curbside pickup of its craft brews. Delivery Dudes also will deliver growlers and bottles from Uncle Mike’s to your home.
Chains such as P.F. Chang’s and Capital Grille are going to delivery and curbside service as their dining rooms are closed. At Capital Grille, steaks are still cut to order from a limited menu, and wine and spirits, including cocktails, are available to go.
Vacuum-packed meals and individual foods are available from Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton. Cooked foods prepared there keep up to three weeks in the refrigerator. Diners can reheat the foods easily. The restaurant is known for its healthy cooking techniques.
Delivery services step up
The delivery companies are busier than ever before with customers deciding to order food delivery rather than risk exposure to other people. Online or phone orders, along with cashless payments, ease the process. Most delivery people will place the foods on your porch, and no human contact is needed for the transaction.
Uber Eats is the same nationwide service as the ride-share service founded as a smartphone app. Ordering is done on the phone once you choose your own restaurant. No money changes hands. At press time, the fees Uber usually charges restaurants to deliver for them were being waived; the diner still pays for delivery, however.
Delivery Dudes, based in Delray Beach but delivering throughout Palm Beach and Broward counties, has added the Dudes Bodega, available via a phone app or at www.deliverydudes.com/restaurants/the-dudes-bodega-delray-beach-fl-8690. Drivers will pick up and deliver restaurant meals, foods and pet items from the grocery, prescriptions and other drugstore items, and alcohol. ID is required at your end.
Grub Hub is another nationwide service that handles many chain restaurants; it’s found as an app or at www.grubhub.com.
Many groceries such as Publix and Aldi, and stores such as Target and Walmart that carry food, will shop for you and have it ready for pickup through their websites. You also can order through delivery services such as Shipt, which delivers for Publix. It’s available as a phone app or online.
Tips for ordering
Here are some tips for ordering takeout, pickup and delivery:
Make sure your favorite restaurant is offering takeout. Some may have shut down after all. Support those that are open, if possible, by passing the word around on social media, and leaving good feedback on their sites.
Plan ahead. If you can order a day or more ahead for lunch or dinner, it helps the restaurant plan its output. It can’t afford to have much food left over. Popular restaurants may run out of nightly specials early on.
Get an estimated time of delivery as you order, and ask if the restaurant has a thermal bag for delivery to keep the foods hot. Allow extra time for a large order, and realize the independent drivers may come from elsewhere to pick up the foods and not wait at your restaurant. If you have multiple restaurants as pickups and order at rush hour (5:30-7:30 p.m.), expect an even longer wait.
If possible, order directly from the restaurant; some delivery spots and menu sites have fees charged to restaurants. You still may have to pay for delivery, but the restaurant doesn’t pay extra for delivery service.
Don’t expect fast-food pricing just because it’s takeout. The overhead is much greater, even with smaller staffs. There’s the cost of quality food, pay for chefs who are prepping and cooking, workers packing, and the packaging materials. It adds up.
Don’t forget ethnic restaurants that need to stay afloat. Their overhead may not be as much, but neither are their profits. Support those restaurants and small sandwich and sub shops in your community that you usually frequent.
Just as if you were in the restaurants, let them know ahead of time of any serious dietary restrictions on your orders, but don’t expect the wide variety of substitutes from a full menu. Don’t harass the staff about it, either; you’ll look silly.
If you prefer, ask your driver to leave your food on a porch or patio; make sure you are explicit with how to contact you once it’s set out. If there’s a chance you’ll be indisposed at the time of delivery, put a cooler outside to prevent insects from getting to the food first.
If you’re ordering groceries or fresh produce, be prepared with several substitute choices, because all shoppers are facing emptier shelves. Also expect a long delivery time — up to three days as the number of delivery orders soars.
Tip your drivers, especially if you’ve asked them to shop for you. They are frazzled these days and putting themselves out there on the front lines so you don’t have to.
Jan Norris is a food writer who can be reached at email@example.com