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Takeout For Thanksgiving Is A Way To Support San Diego Restaurants During Pandemic

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San Diego restaurants who’ve never offered meals specifically geared to the holidays are trying to promote special take out meals or deliveries for Thanksgiving. It’s all part of an industry trying to use creativity and perseverance to survive multiple coronavirus shutdowns.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Restaurants are scrambling to figure out how to offer their regular Thanksgiving meals to customers outdoors or at home. In fact, San Diego restaurants, who've never offered meals specifically geared to the holidays are trying to promote special takeouts for Thanksgiving. It's all part of an industry. Try to use creativity and perseverance to survive multiple Corona virus shutdowns. We'll hear what's available this holiday and catch up with the struggles of local restaurants with Troy Johnson, food writer for San Diego magazine and Troy

Speaker 2: 00:34 You're welcome. Thank you, Irene. It's uh, it's an interesting time to be here.

Speaker 1: 00:39 It certainly is. Now, you know, we, we think of the holidays as home celebrations, but actually many restaurants are traditionally booked solid for Thanksgiving. Aren't they?

Speaker 2: 00:52 Yeah. Restaurants traditionally the numbers oscillate, but usually it's about 10% of the American public goes out and decides that doing dishes is just no longer a tenable option for happiness and goes and does Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant? Well, 10% of Americans, that's a huge amount of people that would flood into these restaurants and they'd be booked out for weeks. It's one of their big boom economic contributors for the year, especially heading into a slow season. You know, this is the winter time is the slowest season for restaurants. Traditionally, the two things that keep them afloat are Thanksgiving dinners and then Christmas parties and at new year's Eve parties. Now those are all going to be out this year. So restaurants are really counting on this Thanksgiving to kind of buttress the coffers,

Speaker 1: 01:39 Right? Are restaurants offering special Thanksgiving packages of try to lure people either into the restaurant or to, to buy food from the restaurant?

Speaker 2: 01:49 Yeah, everyone has reinvented themselves. Every single restaurant tour is now a caterer or an off-premise supplier. You talk about on-premise or off-premise in this industry, right? On-premise as you go to eat at a restaurant, you have drinks and food off premises catering, and to go orders and that sort of thing. Well, that sector that to go sector is doing amazingly well. They're having banner years. What's really struggling are the higher end restaurants, which depend and are completely built around around that dine inexperienced with the beautiful chandelier and the nice carpet, the good art and everything else. Those guys just weren't built for this kind of outdoor dining or to go. They are absolutely reinventing their business. I mean, you're seeing, you know, George's, which is one of the better restaurants in San Diego. They're doing a three-course meal for a really reasonable price, like $75. You have, you know, um, places that really have never even done Thanksgiving dinners, offering them to go. They are all turning into Danks, giving to go centers right now.

Speaker 1: 02:46 Can anybody actually get a Thanksgiving meal delivered to their home?

Speaker 2: 02:51 Oh yeah. I mean, there are a lot of places doing, um, delivery. You can get almost every single one of these places that are doing the packages to go. You can also get through either third party vendor apps or they will, they have their own delivery system. Some of them will deliver themselves. Most of them use a third party app. You can get all these, you know, June at Julie and campfire up in Carlsbad are doing a three course meal, like 10 pounds smoke roasted bone in beef, short ribs and things like that, that you can get delivered to your house or go pick it up curbside delivery.

Speaker 1: 03:22 You've given us a sort of a feel for this, but I want to ask you specifically, what is the status of San Diego's restaurant industry now that we're in a second shutdown of indoor dining?

Speaker 2: 03:34 It's not good. I mean, it's, it's one of the most catastrophic things to ever hit our industry. You know, depending on the stats that you look at, Yelp has predicted that 60% of small businesses will close the N the national restaurant association in September said that we've lost about a hundred thousand restaurants. The year over year decline from in 2020, from 2019 is about 35.24%. Now, when you're talking about an industry that makes a 6% on average profit margin, meaning every dollar that comes into the restaurant, they get 6 cents that 35% dip in revenue is absolutely catastrophic. We've already seen some clothes, just assumptions, San Diego's know, better restaurants, more beloved restaurants, the smaller ones, it's the, I don't want to paint a total doom and gloom. The good thing about this is that restaurant tours had, that have been able to survive. I've talked with so many that are adapting their businesses.

Speaker 2: 04:32 They are streamlining their businesses. High-end places that never even wanted to do to go our learning, how to do, to go. They are rethinking what was really a non-profitable sector or a really hard sector to make a living in restaurant profit margins are notoriously bad. And because of this, they've had to become caters to go and really streamline their businesses and only offer things that re carry well that are, you know, um, different menu options. They've never even served because they were just doing dine and only, you know, a lot of restaurant tours say this is actually been as long as they survive really good for the long-term financial success.

Speaker 1: 05:15 So you think that some of these changes are forcing fundamental changes in, in the restaurant industry, for sure.

Speaker 2: 05:23 Absolutely. And one thing that I love as somebody who's observed restaurant cultures, I think that it's, it's a bread and empathy among restaurant diners that we've never seen before when there's the advent of online reviewing, and I'm not going to name anyone to accompany specifically, I'm just saying online review sites became caustic. They became so vitriolic really, you would see somebody, you know, review a restaurant and it was just a small mom and pop. And they said, Oh, he showed up on a Friday night with seven people and they wouldn't let us in, but we saw a table in the corner. It's like, you showed up on a Friday night without a reservation. You couldn't get in. And now you're giving this restaurant a one-star review on this website that really drastically affects their business. It'd become a culture of bullying, small entrepreneurs and mom and pop business owners. And I think now everybody's got that everybody is chilled out as a diner. They're not as critical. They don't think their opinion, um, or their, their harsh criticism is as valuable anymore. And they realize that these are real human beings who are working on a small profit line, just trying to keep themselves and their people employed. So I think it's just seeing a nice suffocation of our industry, which I think has been long overdue.

Speaker 1: 06:40 You know, there are an awful lot of San Diego ans you're absolutely right. And that would want to support the restaurant industry, but they too are struggling financially and can't be going out or ordering out for food every day. So what would you suggest that we can do to help local restaurants survive?

Speaker 2: 07:00 Most important thing is take care of your family is to pay your bills. We're all hurting it to a varying degree. You know, you have to take care of your own and make sure that your you and your family are okay. And if you don't have the money to go out and support these restaurants, that's okay. What you can do though, is keep the conversation going. If you do a top 10 dishes that you want to go eat again, or places that you love, you know, somebody who may be in a better financial position right now to be able to support these restaurants may see that and go, I'm going to go support that restaurant. You know? So I think that if you just continue the, you know, this is the place that I'd love to support. This is the reason why I love this restaurant online, or just even your friends, whatever it is, and an email, or, you know, you can continue the conversation going because these guys definitely need so much help.

Speaker 2: 07:45 The worst thing about this whole COVID and Corona virus is that it affected the places that were really keeping us together, restaurants for all their unprofitability, where the one thing that got us off our phones brought us together face to face and kept our community together. And now they, because being together is what's, you know, putting America and the world in danger, they're the ones affected the most. So, I mean, it's, they are far more important to the health of a local community than you can ever imagine. You know, businesses are born and restaurants, you know, families are born of restaurants, relationships are started, friendships are started, whatever it is, you know, and we don't have that anymore. Any of us who've sat at home, you know, and isolated ourselves with maybe a loved one fight for loved ones or your solo now are now seeing that vast importance of getting together in a group.

Speaker 2: 08:37 So anything we can possibly do, one thing I'd like to add about Thanksgiving is I would urge people to think non-traditionally you don't think about Turkey this Thanksgiving, maybe there's a small ramen shop down the road that, you know, you, you're going to have a ramen Thanksgiving. And this you'd know a small mom and pop who could use your help. Don't necessarily just think about Turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce. You know, think about international dishes, think about anything you can do find that local place that you think really needs a little boost. And if you have the means, and if you're able to do it, you know, do a totally non-traditional ramen or sushi or Mexican or Italian, or, you know, Eritrean, you know, Thanksgiving dinner. Now that would really help.

Speaker 1: 09:26 I've been speaking with Troy Johnson, food writer for San Diego magazine. However you celebrate joy, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Speaker 2: 09:35 Thank you so much. You too, as well for a

Speaker 1: 09:37 List of some of the San Diego County restaurants offering dine-in or takeout options for Thanksgiving, go to our website,, and an update and a segment. We brought you yesterday about cooking Thanksgiving dinner at home. Our guests said that defrosted cooked Turkey bones are poisonous. Now, according to the U S department of agriculture, it is true that under cooking a Turkey can lead to serious foodborne illness as can leaving leftovers out too long, but we can find no source stating frozen Turkey bones if cooked properly are poisonous. So if you have any questions about your food safety for your Thanksgiving dinner, call the USDA meat and poultry hotline at (888) 674-6854.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.