It hit Jan Altman when her friend and local restaurateur John Lee told her he was losing money every day during the pandemic.
"I just thought, 'I've got to do something,'" she said.
That something is Restaurant Rescue, a new, grassroots campaign encouraging people to order from restaurants in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Restaurant Rescue is asking people to spend $25 per week on takeout meals from now until the end of May in the hopes it will help bolster local eateries that have suffered losses during the coronavirus.
Altman and a group of local residents have been working on Restaurant Rescue for months, meeting on Zoom and tweaking their campaign to best fit local needs. Most of them Altman has never met before. They responded to her Nextdoor post asking for volunteers to help create a campaign to support restaurants. The team now includes about 30 people, including representatives from the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and local restaurant owners.
They hope there will be power in numbers: The more people that order takeout (and pick it up themselves if possible to save restaurants costly third party delivery fees) and share the Restaurant Rescue "takeout pledge" with friends, neighbors and on social media, the more revenue for restaurants. They're in the process of translating the pledge into Spanish.
Restaurant Rescue also created a Facebook group for participants to share what they're eating. Altman said they'll also encourage restaurant owners to post special offers to the group.
For people who don't live in the area but want to contribute, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for people facing food insecurity. The money will be used to purchase discounted DoorDash gift certificates, which East Palo Alto nonprofit WeHope will distribute to people in need — whose orders will in turn support restaurants. (Restaurant Rescue will keep 5% of donations to cover its expenses.)
Altman, a retired consultant who's lived in downtown Palo Alto for over two decades, said love for her community and a desire to sustain the local food world gives her "a reason to wake up in the morning."
"We love eating out and it's just a natural thing that we care about what happens to the restaurant industry in our hometown," Altman said.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.