Panera Bread, Qdoba and hundreds of restaurants are urging people to order takeout

The Great American Takeout launches on Tuesday, March 24.
Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
Thousands of restaurants across the country have been forced to close down or severely alter operations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Victor J. Blue / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

A coalition of national chains and local restaurants have banned together to encourage consumers to order, rather than cook, more of their meals in an effort to help save the industry amid nationwide closures due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

More than a hundred businesses, including Panera Bread, Noodles & Company, Veggie Grill, The Habit Burger Grill, Lemonade, Chevys Fresh Mex, California Pizza Kitchen and Qdoba, are asking people to participate in The Great American Takeout on Tuesday, March 24.

“This is no longer about the survival of individual restaurants,” Russ Bendel, the CEO of Habit Restaurants, said in a statement. “It’s about the future of our industry. And time has run out. Together, we must act to support each other and our communities in unprecedented ways.”

As more restrictions are enacted to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, the restaurant industry has been hit with a series of devastating blows.

Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called for a 14-day shutdown of bars and restaurants as part of the nation’s efforts to enforce social distancing. Thousands of restaurants in some of the nation's most populous states have already been closed for a week, and it's estimated that millions may lose their jobs in the coming months.

Before the outbreak, the restaurant industry employed more than 15 million people, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Now, however, the NRA says “early economic forecasts reveal the industry will sustain at least a $225 billion loss and be forced to eliminate between 5 to 7 million jobs over the next three months.”

The businesses behind the The Great American Takeout are urging people to place an order for at least one delivery or pickup meal on Tuesday to show their support for the struggling industry. Many local businesses are now offering takeout directly or through third-party apps.

“The fact that people aren’t leaving their homes, and the fact they’ve stockpiled groceries, means they aren’t spending money on restaurants," a spokesperson for the coalition told TODAY. "Some restaurants are reporting sales declines in excess of 90% in recent weeks."

In addition to supporting the hardworking individuals who are currently struggling, The Great American Takeout is also “a great time to take advantage of the amazing deals and incentives that are offered right now to help everyone through this difficult and unprecedented time," Sarah Grover, interim chief marketing officer for Veggie Grill (a member of the coalition), told FastCasual in an interview.

Certain incentives, which vary by eatery, include free delivery from restaurants or through delivery apps, free extra food for qualifying orders that meet a minimum total and discounted meals.

To participate in The Great American Takeout, Americans are being asked to:

  1. Post about the campaign on social media, and encourage their friends and followers to take part in the day using the hashtag #thegreatamericantakeout.
  2. Engage friends, family and colleagues to support their local restaurants by ordering takeout meals.
  3. Order at least one delivery or pickup meal on Tuesday, March 24, and share the photos on social media.

For every social post that uses the coalition's hashtag, Smithfield Foods will make a $5 donation (matching up to $100,000) to the nonprofit Children of Restaurant Employees, an organization dedicated to helping employees of the food industry with children who are now faced with difficult life-altering circumstances.

After the event is over, people are being encouraged to continue supporting local restaurants and industry employees by ordering takeout regularly throughout the coming weeks and months.

“We encourage everyone to keep supporting our nation’s restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery as often as you can,” the group's spokesperson said. “We hope The Great American Takeout is the start of a longer term initiative to encourage takeout in this new stay-at-home context.”

To keep up with the rising demand for food delivery, several companies like DoorDash, Domino's and Instacart have all recently announced they are planning to hire thousands of new workers.