The Dearborn Downtown Development Authorities (DDDAs) and Dearborn Restaurant Week have launched a new effort to encourage people to order carry-out or curbside pickup from their favorite Dearborn restaurants, rather than ordering through a third-party delivery service.
The Downtown Dearborn Pick Up Pledge will run from Jan. 22-31. It's designed to help ease some of the financial burden restaurants have incurred from the rising popularity of delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What a customer doesn't see is that there might be a small delivery fee for the customer themselves, but then there are also delivery fees that are assessed to the business per order," says Cristina Sheppard-Decius, executive director of the DDDAs. "In some scenarios, it can be upwards of 30%, which is significant."
The DDDAs recently polled some Dearborn restaurants about where they were incurring the most costs during the pandemic and were surprised to find that delivery services were one of the biggest problems for restaurateurs. Sheppard-Decius acknowledges that delivery may be the only option that feels safe to some customers, but she emphasizes that Dearborn businesses are adhering to masking and social distancing procedures, and many restaurants will bring a food order directly to the customer's car for curbside pickup.
"This would definitely give a little bit back to our businesses that really are struggling right now and need it," she says. "If you add this additional cost to the overall expenses that they have already for running a business and paying their mortgage and rents and keeping people employed, it makes it that much more challenging for businesses to stay healthy."
Sheppard-Decius says this winter's mostly mild weather has been a "blessing" to many Dearborn restaurants, but overall the challenges of the season have been "on par with what we were anticipating in terms of difficulties." State orders prohibiting indoor dining have particularly added to restaurateurs' challenges during the cold months.
Dearborn retailers have also seen an associated downtick in their business, as foot traffic downtown has slowed.
"If you're getting everything delivered to your home, you're obviously not going to the local shops to support them either," Sheppard-Decius says. "You don't have that residual consumerism that happens naturally when people come into downtown for their intended purpose and then stop other places. By getting people to come out and pick up or get curbside, hopefully, we'll also have a residual effect on our retail businesses."
The Pick Up Pledge has already received a warm reception, with 180 people responding to a Facebook event for the effort so far. Although the pledge technically only lasts a little over a week, Sheppard-Decius hopes that customers will continue to pick up their orders from local restaurants even after it's over.
"Hopefully we're bringing an awareness that lives on afterward for people to continue that initiative basically through the end of this pandemic," she says. "If you can continue to do that, that will help our businesses stay stronger and be here tomorrow for us to enjoy."