The pandemic may have flipped much of our society upside down, but one thing will always remain true no matter where you find yourself geographically or how dire the public health crisis may be - people need to eat. Rhode Island in particular relies
The pandemic may have flipped much of our society upside down, but one thing will always remain true no matter where you find yourself geographically or how dire the public health crisis may be – people need to eat.
Rhode Island in particular relies heavily upon the appetites of its residents. Not only for the delicious local fare that is served up daily – including a vast array of different cultures that are represented on the plate – but also for the appetite of Rhode Islanders to support local restaurants and food sources.
Perhaps it’s ingrained in our tiny state’s DNA to appreciate the toil of our neighbors who work hard every day to provide us with something as rudimentarily comforting and necessary as a satisfying, home cooked meal – whether they sweat in the fields growing produce, labor over a hot grill top closely watching to ensure our entrees cooked just right or greet us with a smile when they take our orders.
The restaurant and hospitality industry is a cornerstone of the Rhode Island economy – with over 60,000 Rhode Islanders relying on the industry for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent data. COVID has completely tanked the industry, with the BLS data showing those employment numbers falling off a cliff to less than half that amount at the peak of the lockdown. At its worst in April, employment in the industry was down 63 percent.
While numbers have improved a bit to about 38,000 working, the future is nonetheless uncertain at best for most within the industry, and we’ve already seen many previously successful restaurants and hot spots close their doors as a result of varying degrees of restrictions made in the effort to try and prevent the spread of infection.
While this societal uncertainty seems to be here for the long haul, we’re encouraged by the inventive efforts of the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, that have adjusted their regularly-scheduled plan for the upcoming annual Providence Restaurant Week into a month’s-long, pandemic-friendly one (August 16 through September 12) that will hopefully allow for even greater fiscal success for restaurants and all the same digestive delight for those seeking a great meal from a local source.
In addition to having the traditional option for patrons to visit a variety of restaurants in person (though that capacity may be limited due to gathering restrictions) to enjoy special deals, promotions and meals, this year the munchies will become mobile – as breakfast, lunch, dinner and chef’s specials options from participating restaurants in Warwick, Cranston, Johnston and all throughout Rhode Island will be able to be delivered right to your home dining room.
This is being done in partnership with a local Warwick business WhatsGood, which was started by Johnson & Wales graduate Matt Tortora and his wife, a Navy veteran. WhatsGood has seized a unique opportunity to do what large corporations like Uber Eats, Grubhub and Doordash can’t seem to do – deliver all the food that diners want without unfairly price-gauging the restaurants and eateries that supply their commodity for them. WhatsGood takes as little as 5 percent from the cost of the meal for their own services.
The hope is that the expanded Restaurant Week festivity will actually expand the exposure of participating restaurants. With the expanded time frame and a reasonable price range for a dinner for two, Rhode Islanders who have the ability to eat out should visit the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau website to see a list of participating restaurants, and then get their appetites and dinnerware ready.
Let’s face it – everyone living through this moment in time has indulged in a little stress eating now and again to help ease the anxiety of the world’s instability. We might as well help bolster the local economy whilst doing so.