City of Stow focuses on helping restaurants survive pandemic

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
Dave Segen, owner of Bellacino's, is participating in Stow's February restaurant promotion that aims to help restaurants struggling due to COVID-19.
Dave Segen, the owner of Bellacino's, serves a pizza fresh out of the oven at the restaurant in Stow. The restaurant is participating in Stow's multifaceted restaurant promotion that includes a safe dine-in pledge, deliveries by nonprofits and a restaurant passport.

The city of Stow in partnership with local health, business and community leaders has developed a three-pronged approach to help local restaurants earn profits and gain consumer confidence during the pandemic. 

"Going back to 2005, 2010, we've had no problem reaching out for sports programs or city organizations to these restaurants and saying, 'Hey, can you help us out?' It's our turn now to go back and say, 'How do we help you?'" Mayor John Pribonic said.

The three initiatives come at no cost to the restaurants.

Monday Meals

Just as restaurants have been struggling throughout the pandemic, so too have civic organizations whose fundraising efforts have been stalled without the ability to hold large-scale events. 

With the launch of "Monday Meals" on Feb. 8, Stow and Munroe Falls residents can help both, simply by ordering delivery.

"This is really the secret sauce," Pribonic said. 

Each Monday, two restaurants will be paired with a local organization. When people order delivery through the restaurant, rather than through a delivery service like DoorDash, the nonprofit will deliver the meals. 

All tips will go directly to the delivering nonprofit organization.

Dan Russo, co-owner of Tavern of Stow, explained that while DoorDash has become a necessity during the pandemic, it does cut profits by 25% to 30% per order, which is significant considering takeout orders still make up 30% to 50% of his business.

"This will help remove that DoorDash fee for the day," Russo said. "Drivers come in and and instead of the tip going to DoorDash, it'll go to the organization instead. It's a win-win. The nonprofit gets their name out there, and we retain revenue for the day." 

Tavern of Stow and Bellacino's will be the first restaurants featured for Monday Meals on Feb. 8, when parents from Stow Youth Football and Cheerleading will deliver the meals. Each order will receive a note from the children involved in those programs. 

On Feb. 15, the Stow-Munroe Falls Athletic Boosters Club will deliver Pancho & Lefty's and Altieri's Pizza; and on Feb. 22, a yet-to-be-determined nonprofit will deliver for the Cafe in Stow and Beef  'O' Brady's.

There also will be a special Saturday morning delivery on Feb. 27 for Corner Cup Coffeehouse and Stownut Donut & Diner. 

Heather Ciranna, the owner of the Corner Cup Coffeehouse, will be one of the participating restaurants in the city of Stow's Monday Meals promotion that has nonprofits delivering for local restaurants. Corner Cup, along with Stownut Donut & Diner, will have a special Saturday delivery on Feb. 27 to capitalize on the morning crowd.

"This is huge for us, and I love that mine is on a Saturday morning because that's the busiest time of the week for us," Corner Cup owner Heather Ciranna said. "The biggest area of difficulty with my current business model is that I don't have a drive-thru, so this solves that problem for me. Even for a short period of time, it's really awesome."

Trevor Day, a barista at the Corner Cup Coffeehouse in Stow, prepares an iced latte. The coffeehouse is participating in Stow's February restaurant promotion that hopes to help restaurants that are struggling due to COVID-19.

Visit https://stowohio.org/monday-meals/ to order meals. 

Restaurant Passport

With more than 80 restaurants in the city, Stow residents have many dining options. Restaurant owners are hoping to encourage their patrons to try out new places, while also maintaining their own business, with the new restaurant passport. 

"The challenge is that we are all individually working in silos trying to protect our businesses, keep it going and stay safe and healthy," Russo said. "So how do we get everyone to collaborate so that we're not climbing all over each other? This is about getting customers to visit all of us."

Russo said that the passport is still in progress, but will be available online and in restaurants. Patrons will get a stamp for each restaurant they visit, and after they have a certain number of stamps, they can drop off their passport at City Hall to be entered into a gift card drawing. 

Pribonic said that the gift cards would be to local restaurants, and that the city and local civic organizations will be donating the cards. 

Safe Dine-In Pledge

Finally, Pribonic is encouraging restaurants to participate in the Safe Dine-in Pledge, a Western Reserve Hospital program that launched last spring in Cuyahoga Falls.

More:Western Reserve Hospital helping business safely reopen during pandemic

"Last spring, a lot of information was thrown at restaurant owners, so we worked hard to compile all the safety precautions into a booklet to make it more concise and clear that if you do these things, then your consumers can be confident about dining in your restaurant," hospital spokesperson Kathy Romito said. 

Restaurants receive certification when they review and implement safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ohio Department of Health and Western Reserve Hospital.

As an added component, restaurant owners and Pribonic are filming inside their restaurants to discuss the pledge and ask for patron support. The video will be published on social media platforms. 

The Stow program also has added in a safety tip sheet for consumers.

safedinestowtips.pdf

"People don't know that when a waitress comes back, you're supposed to put your mask back on. So we're creating a series of videos about that too," Romito said. 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, kkano@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.