A coalition of restaurants including Panera Bread, The Cheesecake Factory, and California Pizza Kitchen is asking everyone to order takeout on March 24 to help the hurting hospitality industry amid the coronavirus pandemic
Chinese take away boxes
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Due to the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, health officials and governments across the country have ordered restaurants and bars to shut down their dining rooms indefinitely in order to slow the rate of infection. As a result, the hospitality industry — which employs more than 15 million Americans — is suffering greatly.

Many in the restaurant industry have transitioned to delivery and take-out models in order to stay in business and continue to pay workers, while others are unable to implement these changes effectively and have been forced to lay off thousands of employees, at least temporarily.

Enter: The nation’s largest chain restaurants and The Great American Takeout national challenge.

A coalition of chains including California Pizza Kitchen, Panera Bread, The Cheesecake Factory, Del Taco, Smokey Bones, Applebee’s, and dozens more is asking anyone who can to order at least one delivery or takeout meal from a local restaurant on Tuesday, March 24.

Participating in the challenge will show support for the struggling restaurant community and increase awareness about the challenges restaurants are facing during this time. Americans who want to partake are being asked to share their orders and encourage others to do the same with hashtag #thegreatamericantakeout.

“Because dine-in meals are no longer being served at most restaurants, delivery and pick-up are the only ways to support these struggling businesses,” the coalition said in a statement. “After The Great American Takeout, Americans are encouraged to continue supporting local restaurants and industry employees by ordering takeout regularly throughout the weeks and months ahead.”

“This is no longer about the survival of individual restaurants,” added Habit Restaurants CEO Russ Bendel in a press release. “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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, there is little evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through food or packaging, so Americans should feel comfortable ordering throughout this period. Countless delivery services and restaurants are also offering no-contact delivery as an added precaution.

If you are looking for additional ways to support local restaurants without leaving your home, consider ordering restaurant-made meal kits, buying gift cards or merchandise, writing positive reviews online, donating to your city’s virtual tip jar or to restaurants that have launched online campaigns to help pay their employees, and asking your local coffee shop, wine store, or bakery how they’re dealing with all of the changes, and what you can do to support them.

Another way you may be able to help is by reaching out to your elected officials on both the state and federal levels. Whatever your cause — whether you’re most concerned about restaurant workers having access to unemployment without status change or small business owners receiving loans to help keep their operations afloat — you have the power to let your legislatures know.

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As of March 24, there have been at least 49,619 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 615 deaths in the United States, according to The New York Times. The majority of the cases are in New York, New Jersey, Washington state, and California.

The CDC says the best prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home at signs of illness.