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Cities, Towns Incentivize Eating Local With Contests, Other Perks

Cities, Towns Incentivize Eating Local With Contests, Other Perks

Hartford Business Journal, April 23, 2020

By Sean Teehan

Cities and towns across Connecticut are holding contests and promotions to incentivize ordering takeout food from struggling local restaurants.

"During this trying time many of our local independent restaurants are staying open, not only to provide us with food, but to keep their business afloat and their staff employed," the town of Wallingford said promoting its “Eat Local and Win in Wallingford” contest, which runs until May 8.

People who spend at least $15 at a local Wallingford restaurant can mail or email their receipts to town hall, and will be entered into a raffle for a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant.

East Hartford is holding a similar contest. There, residents who email a photo of a receipt from any East Hartford restaurant dated April 10 or later, are eligible to win one of five $50 gift cards to local eateries. "[Restaurants] are depending on continued business and support from patrons in order to remain open far into the future," the city said in a statement.  

Berlin and Bloomfield are also holding contests.

Bloomfield's Economic Development Commission is holding "Bloomfield Eats Local – To Win Local" through April 30. In that contest, residents who show at least two receipts for at least $15 each from local restaurants are eligible to win a $15 gift certificate to one of the restaurants.

"We’re calling on our citizens to help our family-owned firms keep the lights on by promoting their takeout/curbside options," Bloomfield's Economic Development Commission said in a statement. 

Hartford Chamber efforts back to top

The Hartford Chamber of Commerce this week rolled out its Small Biz Bonds program, which allows local restaurants and retail establishments to sell gift cards that can be redeemed with a 20% incentive after July 1.  Gov. Ned Lamont’s COVID-19 shut down order, which has been in place since March 16 and will last until at least May 20, disrupted the restaurant sector more than any event in living memory, and industry leaders in Connecticut collectively wonder how they will bounce back.  

While Lamont’s order allows restaurants to operate takeout only, that service usually only accounts for about 15% of an eatery’s revenue, said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA).

Restaurants are also having difficulties taking advantage of government programs offered to prop up businesses amid COVID-19.

For example, restaurants that have laid off workers can still apply for Paycheck Protection Program funds, but they would need to rehire employees after their application is approved and the federal money is in-hand. Nationally, restaurants have complained that the loan amount — 2.5 times a company’s average 2019 monthly payroll — and eight-week window to spend the funds won’t be enough to help the industry deal with a longer-term downturn.