Tucson's food and beverage industry is sounding the clarion call through a YouTube video and a website asking for the public to support local restaurants by purchasing one carryout meal a week as Gov. Doug Ducey's stay-at-home order remains active through April 30.
The call to action started after The Parish Chef and Co-Owner Travis Peters posted about his frustration with how local media outlets were handling their restaurant to-go lists on Facebook. Peters said he appreciated the local media's response, but each restaurant list featured different eateries, causing numerous places to be excluded.
"Every local media outlet was creating their own list and it seemed like if you didn't get on their list, you were going to get missed," Peters said. "I was like (the media) needs to do more."
Peters had the idea of creating a viral YouTube video letting the community know, "Hey, we're still open," he said. Peters had no idea of the response from the local community that would soon follow.
"So I made the Facebook post out of frustration, hoping somebody would pick up on it," Peters said. "Matt Russell came to the rescue and got the right people talking."
Matt Russell, president of Russell Communications, sent out an email to local food writers and media asking for help pulling together Peters' video and message. Within hours of Russell's email, videographer Scot Litteer and his crew at Litteer Films signed on to film and produce the video, which was completed in four days. Litteer's production company has worked with Tucson Electric Power, Visit Tucson and Sun Tran/Sun Van.
"It was the post heard around Tucson's restaurant world. It was this one post from a chef that had a pretty clear request and it spoke to me," Russell said. "To me, this wasn't a choice about whether I should respond. I had a responsibility to act to support this community that I love."
By now, you're probably one of the near 20,000 people who've seen the Litteer's YouTube video titled "A Message From Tucson Chefs" featuring Peters, Senae Thai's Dee Buizer, El Taco Rustico's Juan Almanza and Tanque Verde Ranch's Janet Balderas. The video's message is clear—you can help keep your favorite restaurants open by ordering one takeout meal per week.
"With everything that we're going through right now, we need to make sure to support local and help out your family and our families survive and get through this together," Balderas said in the video. "Our family wants to feed your family."
Peters said it is imperative for the public to order takeout when possible to help Tucson's vibrant restaurant community survive this unprecedented time. The simple request would help keep the restaurant's doors open and help keep employees from the unemployment line.
"Ordering takeout is 100 percent imperative for all restaurants' survival right now. It's not about trying to make a profit. We're all in the same boat," Peters said. "If we can help these restaurants survive, then our employees continue to have a job and they can put food on their tables. That's really what it's all about."
Visit Tucson and Storyteller Public Relations and Events, the brains behind Sonoran Restaurant Week, are also helping restaurants by revamping the event's website, www.sonoranrestaurantweek.com, as Sonoran Restaurant Week Presents: Tucson To-Go. The site features local restaurants offering $30 meal deals for two. But the customer doesn't have to order the $30 deal, said Laura Reese of Storyteller Public Relations. The purpose is to direct traffic to local restaurant's website, she said.
"The $30 deal is just to give the site some cohesiveness and we direct customers back to that restaurant's website," Reese said. "If it opens up the door for people to order more, that's great. Most restaurants have their full menu available right now."
About 15 different local restaurants have joined—from Boca Tacos y Tequila to cajun food at Peters' The Parish, and even breakfast at eastside mainstay Joe's Pancake House.
"It took our regulars and everyone in the area a little bit of time to realize we're still open after they announced restaurants were closed, but could still do takeout," said Mary Brineley, general manager of Joe's Pancake House. "Business has been good enough to keep us afloat and I think the (Tucson To-Go) site is helping."
Brineley said she saw a post on the Sonoran Restaurant Week Instagram page asking restaurants to join their site. At this point anything bringing in business is a good thing, she said.
"We saw a post on their Instagram to connect with them, so we did," Brineley said. "It's so great to see everyone out there helping restaurants and locals too."
Becoming a part of the Tucson To-Go site is as simple as sending your contact information to Reese, she said. There is no cost to join and Reese said the site will stay up as long as its needed.
"This is not an exclusive club. As soon as I get information from restaurants that email me, I put it up on our website and push it on our social media," Reese said. "There's no time cap on this. We're doing it as long as it's needed."