For many of us whose livelihoods revolve around food, last month felt almost like March and April again. Between rising infection rates and a snowstorm, indoor dining shut down and outdoor dining largely shuttered. Most restaurant workers were left without work, and most owners were trying to stretch every dollar to make payroll and cover expenses.
Like in March, we reoriented our restaurants around delivery. When we opened the first Peaches in Bed-Stuy almost 15 years ago, we never planned for delivery services to be a major part of our business. But COVID flipped our plan on its head — and thanks to these services and hardworking delivery workers, we have been able to keep our restaurants open through the last nine months.
There is a renewed discussion around delivery services’ role in our city. Delivery services have made the difference for us during the pandemic. They have helped us broaden our reach beyond the Bed-Stuy community that we love and that has always been our core customer base. Now we’re serving New Yorkers across Brooklyn and even in other boroughs, and that’s helping to keep our restaurants alive — and our team employed.
None of this would be possible without the dedicated delivery workers who help get the food we make to fellow New Yorkers. It’s a job not without its challenges, especially in weather like we saw last week. Restaurants are struggling, and we know many families are struggling, and we in the industry couldn’t survive without these workers.
When we learned recently that these delivery workers didn’t have regular access to restrooms as they zipped around the city, we knew we needed to step up. So we are. We have committed to make the restrooms in our four restaurant locations available to food delivery workers. If you’re biking around New York City in freezing temperatures, bringing dinner to your neighbors so you can put dinner on the table for your own family while doing so much to support a restaurant industry that is on the ropes, the very least we can do is promise you a sanitary restroom.
To the 200 other New York City restaurant locations who have joined us in taking this pledge, and to DoorDash who challenged us to accept it, thank you. To the NYC Hospitality Alliance who pushed restaurants to reconsider policies that shut their restroom doors to third-party delivery workers, thank you. We are encouraging every one of our peers to join us: with a small gesture like making your restroom available, we will all be better off.
We must recognize that we are all in this together. Each time infection rates have risen in New York City, restaurants have shut down — not because we want to but because we know it’s the best thing for the health of our city. And each time, delivery services and workers have helped us survive. But we can’t do this forever. So to Congress, we say that we are adding our voice to the chorus of restaurant workers and owners calling on you to pass the RESTAURANTS Act and provide $120 billion in desperately needed relief for our industry. We don’t want to wake up on the other side of this vaccination process and find that we’ve lost the places that make our neighborhoods special.
And finally to our fellow New Yorkers: order from your local restaurants. So many of us are stuck at home, looking for ways to make 2021 better than 2020 — we may not have rung in the New Year with our families, but we can enjoy a great meal from our favorite neighborhood eatery. And don’t forget to tip.
Ben Grossman and Craig Samuel are the founding members of B+C Restaurant Group, which includes Peaches, Peaches Hothouse, Peaches Shrimp and Crab, and The Smoke Joint.