I am frightened for the future of our restaurants and the impact that losing them will have on the vibrancy of our communities.
Just over a week ago, some friends and I were having dinner in our home city of Boston, MA at Orfano, which is owned by our friend Tiffani Faison. Two of us had walked about a mile to get there, walking through the neighborhoods of Back Bay, Kenmore and Fenway. Several restaurants were permanently closed, some already closed for the night at 5:45 p.m., and those that were open were not overly crowded.
We started talking about the need to support our local restaurants. They give us a place to celebrate, to feel supported in hard times, to meet up with loved ones, to unwind after a tough day, and to be nourished, physically and sometimes even psychologically.
Restaurants are a pivotal part of our communities and have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Add the arrival of fall and the impending winter (which in Boston can be brutal) and restaurants are in dire need of patrons who can embrace a creative approach.
In Norwegian culture, they embrace winter in a big way, and have a saying that “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. They suggest enjoying outdoor life in the “vinter” months with layers, a focus on woolen materials, and topping it off with a wind-resistant layer. Essentially, pretend you’re heading off to your favorite ski slope. Then pretend it’s apres ski time outdoors and enjoy a meal.
My friends and I decided that evening to establish the Boston Blanket Brigade to mobilize fellow Bostonians to help save our restaurants. Our mission is to blanket restaurants in love and support with flash mob dining. Each week, we will announce a restaurant that we are visiting, sitting outside with our friends, with our blankets to stay warm while helping to fill tables. Join us, or create your own brigade elsewhere, any day of the week in any city or town, at the restaurant of your choice.
We had our kickoff event this past Sunday, returning to Orfano since it was where this idea was generated, and I am thrilled to say that was a terrific success.
Not in Boston? There are several different ways to get involved:
- Follow Boston Blanket Brigade on Instagram at @bostonblanketbrigade
- Host a DIY Blanket Brigade at your own favorite restaurant, at a time or day of the week of your choice, no matter what city or town you are in. Be sure to take a photo and tag us. It will be fun to see how far the brigade reaches!
- Make a donation to support the effort to save independent restaurants. The Independent Restaurant Coalition is working tirelessly to save them.
- Make a donation to support restaurant industry workers. The Emeril Lagasse Foundation Hospitality Industry Relief Fund was created to support industry workers who are experiencing hardship from the COVID-19 crisis and will provide emergency relief grants based on need to workers who have lost employment due to the shutdown for the pandemic.
Think of it this way: when a vaccine comes out and we are able to congregate again, where will you want to meet up with your friends and family? Chance are, many of you said a restaurant. Let us blanket them in our support now to ensure that they are there when we return en masse.