Guidance for Delivery and Curbside in the Wake of Dine-In Restaurant Closures


COVID-19: Guidance for Delivery and Curbside in the Wake of Dine-In Restaurant Closures

In light of COVID-19 and the drastic measures set in place by local governments to #flattenthe curve and contain the spread of pandemic, as of March 19, dine-in service was banned at restaurants, bars, coffee shops and other foodservice outlets in a number of states and cities. 

Those include California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kentucky; Los Angeles; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Miami; Michigan; Minnesota; New Jersey; New Hampshire; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island, Washington state, and Washington, D.C.

Other states and municipalities, while they have not outright banned in-store dining—yet—have limited the capacities of bars and restaurants. Regardless, according to third-party research firm Datassential, more customers have become spooked about stepping into a restaurant’s dining room amidst the coronavirus outbreak. A survey polling 1,000 consumers on March 14 found that nearly half of Americans (49%) are “definitely” avoiding dining out because of the spreading coronavirus. And it’s not just restaurants that are impacted, topping the list of the most feared places to eat are cruise ships (no real surprise there). 

The measures taken by governments nationwide to close restaurants for dine-in do not apply to take-out and delivery. However, at the recommendation of state restaurant associations and public health authorities, many restaurants and even school foodservice programs have opted to offer curbside delivery or pick-up outside of the outlet’s four walls to protect the safety of both customers and staff. Here is a look at some of those restaurants offering curbside delivery. 

In an effort to support stepped up delivery efforts, Uber Eats has waived fees and Grubhub announced the temporary suspension of $100 million in restaurant commissions. Both delivery services (like Amazon and others) now offer a “leave at the door” option for customers. 

While there are typically no insurance or drastic operational changes required to have a third-party delivery company deliver your food, implementing curbside delivery might require a check with your insurance company first to see if you need to make adjustments to your plan in order to offer this service. 

In addition, consider packaging carefully. All packages should be tightly closed and follow local health department protocol. Consider paper versus plastic bags; studies indicate the coronavirus may live longer on plastic and metal versus paper and cardboard. 

In addition, the CDC and other public health institutions are continuing to mandate social distancing to ensure the safety of staff members and customers alike. Read more about the CDC’s guidance for businesses.  

Consider requiring staff sending meals out to guests to wear gloves and maintain distance as much as possible with each other and customers. Some school districts, such as Chicago Public Schools, are packaging up meals to go and setting them outside the school for staggered pick-up, according to recent press conferences. Some smaller restaurants and coffee shops have walk-up windows, which they are using to safely pass food to customers. 

Some restaurants are offering delivery and pick-up of inventory as grocery items after store shelves were ransacked and as a way to collect some missed dollars. Bar Biscay in Chicago has dubbed this new service, “Bodega Biscay,” offering produce, dairy, proteins, dried goods, wine, beer, soda and more. 

Other restaurants are using their extra inventory to package up and offer meal kits, while others are offering full family meals with appetizers, salads, entrees and dessert. Note, though, Datassential recently sent out a COVID-19 report indicating that 60% of consumers prefer single-serve meals, with multiple portions of food in a single container versus family-sized or bulk meals. 

The research firm also offered some other ideas to make a few extra dollars in its report released this week: order takeout/get a discount and/or discounted gift cards for dine-in later; offer take-and-bake items; donate a portion of orders to support people directly affected by the coronavirus; expand delivery zones and hours, and sell containers of your restaurant’s signatures sauces, dressings, spice blends and more. 

In further support of this fast-growing delivery movement as a result of COVID-19, the National Restaurant Association has pushed the federal government for a cap to reduce delivery fees for restaurants on third-party delivery. It’s also pushing to allow restaurants with valid liquor licenses to deliver alcohol to consumers, which is already allowed in some states. 

The novel coronavirus pandemic apparently is giving us many teachable moments, including chefs. Chef Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, Ill., set up a hotline open daily from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for home cooks with questions about home cooking and meal prep. 

ACF will continue to provide updates on delivery and curbside programs as they unfold. Check back at for these and other developing stories regarding the coronavirus. Click here for a complete list of resources.