After all the news about the COVID-19 virus began circulating, one of the biggest worries for David Rowe, owner of D. Rowe’s Restaurant, wasn’t about how his business would fare, but rather his employees.

“I want to keep as many of our employees working and not disrupt their pay the best we can,” he said. “We have 75 employees, and they’re mothers, fathers, they got financial responsibilities like most people do. You can’t just shut it off. They got bills to pay.”

As a part of his response to the virus, he said he would have more employees deliver food if they wanted to. In addition, he amped up his purchases of to-go containers.

His restaurant is one of many businesses in Columbia and nationwide that within the past week have begun focusing more on their delivery or takeout component, be it updating standards or providing it for the first time.

“We are encouraging our customers to not panic,” said Kurt Mirtsching, one of the managers at Shakespeare’s Pizza. “If they go to any restaurants and they are concerned about public spaces, order takeout or take it to the curb. We need to keep the economy buzzing.”

As of Tuesday evening, Boone County had one reported COVID-19 case. The city had already approved capping patronage at bars and restaurants at either 50% of capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller. In Los Angeles, New York City and many states, restaurants and bars have been ordered to close down except for delivery and takeout.

Shakespeare’s Pizza is considering closing down its dining rooms if needed, Mirtsching said in a call Monday.

Other local restaurants have emphasized their delivery and takeout procedures to customers. On Facebook, Sycamore announced it would be adding curbside delivery, though its dining room is still open. The restaurant is even compiling a list on its Facebook page of local restaurants that are open to such methods of delivering food.

A few have taken stricter measures, such as Pizza Tree, which commented on Facebook that it would be doing delivery and window pickup only.

On a national scale, one example is Chipotle, which is offering free delivery for the month of March. Delivery apps, one of the main avenues for many businesses to offer delivery, have announced options for no-contact deliveries. Uber Eats even announced in an email that it would waive all delivery fees for orders from independent restaurants.

It’s not just restaurants; other businesses have hopped onto the delivery train.

Skylark Bookshop is providing delivery and curbside pickup for books in Columbia, and local pet market Lizzi & Rocco’s is promoting its free delivery, too.

“In order for us to continue to survive as a business, we need to do anything we can to encourage people to shop with us and to continue to shop locally rather than turning to shopping online,” said Jessica Schlosser, owner of Lizzi & Rocco’s. She and her husband will primarily handle the delivering for now, she said.

However, delivery in general can be expensive, with fees and tips added to the original order.

That was the concern of Mike Bellman, 49, who lives right outside the city limits. He’s been staying home with his daughter because they have asthma complications.

“We don’t have the luxury of ordering delivery,” he said, adding that he lives quite far from downtown Columbia. “The surcharges are significant.”

However, if they couldn’t leave the house but needed something medically important, Bellman said he would resort to using a delivery service.

Right now, Bellman said he’s thinking of creating a system where large containers (alongside Lysol) could be placed on people’s driveways. People can then communicate with each other via apps and the internet what they need, and they can share, drop off and pick up supplies at each other’s containers.

“I want us to be able to help each other locally if possible,” he said. “The first line of defense — even though nobody’s looking at standing next to or touching each other — is each other.”

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Titus was a state government reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor at the Missourian.

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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