Exploring local businesses

By Allen Zhang

While many industries have been affected by the pandemic, the food and beverage industry has been struggling more than most. 

The National Restaurant Association estimated that at least 17% of food service establishments in the U.S. have closed down on a permanent or long-term basis as of Dec. 15, 2020, TODAY reported.

The restaurants that have managed to remain open have seen drastic decreases in the number of patrons they serve. “We lost about 75-80% of business,” owner of Bean Scene Cafe Kenny Lam said. 

Bean Scene Cafe is a family-run restaurant located in Sunnyvale Downtown (156 S Murphy Ave) that serves coffee, breakfast, crêpes, salads, sandwiches and gelato. Due to the pandemic, the cafe has reduced its operating hours and accepts walk-in, phone-in and online orders.

“It is a lot harder, but we’re lucky enough that we’re able to continue [to stay] open,” Lam said. 

The Don’s Deli, which serves salads, sandwiches, soups and other sides just two blocks away at 121 S Frances St, has experienced a similar decrease in patrons. Dee Upreti, who has been working at The Don’s Deli for four years, said that her shifts have been much slower than they were before the pandemic. The store’s hours have also been shortened, she said.

“One of the major changes that we’ve noticed is that [because] the business here is mostly catered to corporate, but since everyone is working from home, we have a lot less customers than we used to have before,” Upreti said.

“[Now,] we have to ask people to wait outside; we used to have a line wrapped around the store that would go out the door,” her co-worker Aracely Zavala said.

Ryan Vu of Vietnamese restaurant PhoEver, which is located at 321 W Washington Ave, said that a major reason behind the decrease in customers is that the nearby businesses are closed.

“The regular customers from before the pandemic were all the employees from companies [nearby] like Apple and LinkedIn,” Vu said. “Since those customers are now working from home, we lost the majority of the regular customers we used to have.”

With the loss of so many customers, restaurants are counting on people to help keep them in business. Here are some ways you can support your local businesses.

  • Order some food
    One easy way to support a local restaurant is to visit it and order some food! This can be done over the phone, online or even in person now that outdoor dining is allowed again.

    On Monday, Jan. 25, officials from the Department of Public Health lifted the stay-at-home order for all counties in California. Although many counties including Santa Clara County remain in the purple tier, it is up to each individual county to decide if they want to resume previously restricted activities, including outdoor dining. According to the Santa Clara County Department of Public Safety’s website, as of the same day, the county decided to allow outdoor dining to resume among other activities.
  • Tip well if you can
    If possible, consider tipping restaurant workers a bit extra. Tips are usually a big portion of a server’s wage. However, Zavala said that she does not receive any tips from DoorDash orders. Therefore, if you are picking up an order in person and you can afford it, tipping a little extra can go a long way in helping out essential workers.
  • Leave a good review
    According to a survey conducted by GatherUp in 2018, more than 58% of consumers use reviews to help make a restaurant selection at least one quarter of the time, and 36% use them more than half of the time. Therefore, leaving a positive review is a quick and cost-free way to show your love for your favorite establishments.
  • Help spread the word
    This could mean anything from following a restaurant’s social media accounts to suggesting a friend to check out the restaurant. You can even create a post on Facebook or NextDoor to recommend the restaurant to neighbors and peers.
  • Purchase gift cards for later use
    Buying a gift card is a great way to support a local restaurant if they have them because it gives them the money upfront, and you have the opportunity to cash in the gift card later. Additionally, it could make for a great gift for someone else and help acquaint them with the restaurant.

Searching for a local restaurant to visit? Sunnyvale mayor Larry Klein has been eating at Sunnyvale restaurants, coffee shops and food trucks and documenting his experiences on his website in an effort to spotlight restaurants open for business during the pandemic. There are over 180 businesses on the list, each linked to a Facebook post with photos of the food and a short blurb by Klein.