NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Thousands of Facebook users have joined a local page dedicated to helping restaurants and breweries during the coronavirus.
The Hampton Roads Restaurants-Take Out and Delivery Options group has already surpassed 6,000 members in its second day.
Local food vendors say they created the page to give people an outlet during this time.
“It’s been unbelievable to see how the restaurant industry is really supporting each other. It’s really heartwarming,” said Mache Mattus, who helped create the group.
Mattus, along with Lindsay Widener and Elizabeth Spivey, say they were shocked to see how quickly the numbers grew.
“It’s collectively been the community that’s joining in for support of their place, their spot, so their places stay open. This is sadly going to affect people who are living day to day with customers coming in their door and sadly some of them won’t make it,” Spivey said.
So, the group is also a place where businesses can share what’s worked for them since many might have to switch business models that provide only takeout and delivery options.
On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the state health commissioner issued a public health emergency order that bars restaurants, fitness centers and theaters from having more than 10 patrons at a time.
There’s an underlying theme of support and gratitude, according to Mattus, who says they’re also seeing customers get involved.
“I would say 50 to 60 percent are from customers,” Mattus said about the group’s posts. “They’re sharing their favorite places on there. ‘This place is great. You need to go here. This is their phone number.’ Just to see that community outreach gives me goosebumps,” she said.
The trio wants that outreach to grow. They believe that making a Facebook page, which is one of the most trafficked sites online, helps businesses communicate better with customers especially when there’s a lot of information being thrown around during the coronavirus outbreak.
“No one really knows what anyone wants. At this point, the tone keeps changing from business might slow down to business might shutdown. It helps to have businesses and customers on the same page,” Widener said.
And local business owners like Eric Tennant agrees.
Tennant’s business, Benchtop Brewing, has been open for three years.
He says the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus is scary. That’s why they closed their tasting room and are only serving to-go orders.
“It felt like that was what we needed to do to do our part to get ahead of this thing as best as we can,” Tennant said about the decision.
Tennant says they’re working to get online ordering up and running.
Across town, Sandfiddler Cafe in East Beach still has its dining room open but owner Jeff Cohen says they’re making accommodations and will possibly do something they haven’t done before.
“I”m prepared to do what I need to do to keep the Sandfiddler ready to go,” he said outside his restaurant.
Cohen says that they’re seating guests apart and already make to-go orders but within the next few days, his servers could be behind the wheel if doors closed.
“Opposed to us directly using one of the delivery services, my servers make their entire living from tips, gratuity. they’re going to be the ones doing the delivery,” he said.
They’ll only make those deliveries to the 23518 and 23503 area codes. While he’s only been closed on snow days, he says he believes customers will continue to support them.
“It’s scary. It’s just such an unknown territory. We’ve never experienced anything like this. I’d like to think as a community, we’re pulling together and our Sandfiddler community, we’re pulling together. The Sandfiddler will be here in the long run,” he said.
And that’s the point of the Facebook group.
It’s hoping to get more in the community involved so businesses won’t have to worry about the unknown.
The Facebook group is public. If you would like to join, click here.
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