Expect These Major Changes at Restaurants in the Days Ahead

Why your restaurant bills may be higher than usual

The next time you go out to eat, your meal might end up costing you more than usual. As businesses continue to reopen around the country, some restaurants are hitting customers with a COVID-19 surcharge on each check to make up a fraction of the monetary loss caused by coronavirus closures. For size, the restaurant industry was projected to lose an estimated $240 billion in sales by the end of this year.

So, just how much is this charge? It’s different everywhere. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises added a 4% fee to delivery and takeout orders at all of its restaurants. However, the fee can be refunded by any customer who requests it.

“The fees are a necessary step during a time when unanticipated costs have jeopardized the survival of our business,” LEYE president R.J. Melman said in a statement, the Chicago Tribune reported. Melman cited PPE for employees and “the greatest increase in food pricing since 1974,” as added expenditures caused by the pandemic.

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In other parts of the country, Original Pancake locations have added a 15% “service fee” separate from the tip, and a pub in Holland, Michigan, added a $1 charge.

Some people aren’t taking kindly to the new tax, though. Kiko Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi in West Plains, Missouri, implemented a $2.19 surcharge that has since been removed over customer backlash. Instead, it was replaced by higher menu prices, the Miami Herald reported.

Similarly, Harold’s Chicken on Broadway in Chicago got rid of and apologized on Facebook for its 26% COVID-19 fee in mid-May because the phone was ringing off the hook with customer complaints. Manager Jacquelyn Santana told a local station that the surcharge was meant to make up for the 26% increase in supply costs.

A potential COVID-19 surcharge is just one of many ways the post-coronavirus dining experience may differ. Not all states are allowing eateries to open just yet, though. Here’s a breakdown of where restaurants are open for dine-in and what new precautions have been taken to slow the virus’s spread.


How to Help Food Banks and Those in Need


AS STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS extend, we’re all finding ourselves contending with frustration, fatigue and fear as we confront the unknown and try to reconfigure pretty much every aspect of our lives.

I have found that concentrating on we rather than me helps me through these tough times. The idea of helping others and giving back is something that is actionable. And it may help us feel accomplished and empowered, rather than defeated and helpless.

We may not be health care providers on the front line, but we all have a role to play in providing support to our community – our families and our friends. Improving the welfare of others could be as simple as offering to assist with chores, cooking for someone in need or donating time, money, food or supplies to a local food bank.

One of the ways to do more is to help others with their chores. If you’re interested in helping others, do make sure to follow the health and safety recommendations. Mask up, wash your hands frequently and maintain a safe physical distance.

You may have a neighbor who’s a first responder and cannot get to the grocery store. Perhaps you can offer to do their food shopping, but do be sure to practice smart and safe hygiene practices.

Maybe you have an elderly relative who needs someone to cut their lawn, plant flowers or take out the garbage.

Someone who’s homebound may be in need of a go-fer to pick up their medications or supplies. If you have friends who are working long hours, you may want to offer to feed their pets or take them for walks

You may want to consider cleaning and sanitizing a kitchen or providing the products to do so for elderly relatives, friends, neighbors or those with pre-existing illnesses that put them at higher risk of getting the virus.


If you are going to cook for others, be sure to follow the rules of food safety. Shopping for groceries is more than wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance in the store. For food safety, separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other groceries. When you get home, bring in the bags and wash your hands right away.

Ideally put grocery bags on the floor rather than the counter. Put away perishable items first, then the rest of your groceries. And then wash your hands again and all countertops.

If you have never before thought about cleaning produce, now is the time. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, then dry with a paper towel. Do not give your produce a bubble or bleach bath! The bottom line is clean often and adequately: your hands, cooking surfaces, utensils, pots and pans and serving dishes.

So what about the foods we make? A pot of soup, a loaf of bread or fresh rolls are always welcome. You can package up individual meals and include instructions for reheating.

Do you have more produce than you can use? You can put together share packages, or make a fruit tart or a fruit sorbet. Perhaps you belong to a CSA and have extra vegetables. You can blanch, freeze and give to someone in need.

Soups, stews and chili are always welcome, but consider packaging in smaller containers for those that are single. Or you can provide the ingredients and let the recipient assemble the meal themselves.

Or provide a care package with shelf stable foods and a recipe, so the recipient can choose to make now or later:

  • Pasta with beans and tuna.
  • Lentils, rice and canned tomatoes with spices.
  • A dry oatmeal mix of oats, milk powder, dried fruit, nuts and spices.
  • A brownie or cookie mix, where the only ingredients necessary to add are liquid and oil.

You may also want to consider a face time or zoom dinner with family and friends. You can cook together while apart for a virtual dinner table

If you’re a whiz at seasoning and flavoring foods, your expertise may be appreciated by those with a limited meal repertoire who are getting bored with their food choices. A flavoring kit with herbs, spices, vinegar and oils and recommendations for what to pair may be a great gift to share.

Many of us may be doing spring cleaning, but most donation sites cannot accept our furniture, clothes, books and other stuff right now. However, more and more people are now relying on food banks.

Clancy Cash Harrison, founder of the Food Dignity Project and president of the Al Beech West Side Food Pantry in Kingston, Pennsylvania, recommends the following for food donations in the era of COVID-19:

Your food donations require inspection, sorting and storing, not to mention the fact that food pantries need to maintain the appropriate social distancing, so you may not be able to drop off your donations. However, ask whether or not your local food pantry needs specific food items. For instance, there may be a peanut butter and jelly drive or a request for specific canned produce

If your food pantry is taking donations, do be sure that:

  • Food is not expired.
  • Boxes, containers are sealed and have not been opened.
  • Canned foods are not dented or rusty.
  • Foods are not in soiled containers.

Do not donate:

  • Unpasteurized milk.
  • Home canned, vacuum packed or pickled foods.
  • Foods with an “off” odor.
  • Perishable foods.
  • Leftovers.
  • Foods in glass jars.
  • Foods that require a can opener – many guests of food pantries are homeless and would not have a can opener

What Foods Should You Donate?

Protein-containing foods:

  • Canned meats, such as beef or chicken.
  • Canned chili or stew.
  • Canned fish.
  • Canned beans, such as cannellini, kidney, garbanzo.
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts/seeds.
  • Evaporated milk.
  • Powdered milk.


  • Canned fruits.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Canned vegetables.
  • Instant mashed potatoes.
  • Applesauce.


  • Pasta.
  • Rice.
  • Boxed meals such as pasta or rice based dishes.
  • Crackers.
  • Granola bars.
    • Plastic grocery bags.
      • Whole grain cereals.
      • Oats or other hot cereals.

      Fats and Condiments:

      • Cooking oils.
      • Herbs and spices.

      Beyond food, there may be other ways to donate. Monetary donations are always appreciated. Capitalize on your connections. You may know farmers with excess produce or dairy farmers, whom you can connect with your local food bank(s). Maybe you know someone who has a truck to pick up and distribute food boxes.

      Food pantries are in need of supplies now, including:

      • Disinfectant sprays and wipes.
      • Masks.

      Food pantries also need volunteers to assemble bags/boxes, distribute food and, in some cases, drivers to get the food to those in need. You can also assist from home by using your social media skills to spread the word about local food pantries.

      Stepping up helps keep us engaged, feeling productive and useful. Creating a community of we, not me, can bring a sense of unity.


Celiac Disease: Is It OK to Cheat on Your Gluten-Free Diet?

MAY IS CELIAC DISEASE awareness month, and lots of content is circulating online about this autoimmune condition that affects 1% to 2% of Americans. When people with celiac disease consume even trace amounts of gluten – a protein naturally found in wheat and its close relatives like spelt, barley and rye – their bodies launch a self-directed immune system attack that can cause damage to the intestinal lining and result in a variety of health problems beyond the digestive tract.

A meticulously strict gluten-free diet for life is the only treatment for celiac disease, and when people with celiac disease adhere to this diet for the long term, their guts typically heal fully.

Having worked with hundreds of patients with celiac disease over my years as dietitian in a gastroenterology practice, I’ve gotten an insider glimpse at how different people with celiac disease live with the condition.

To some, their celiac disease diagnosis is a welcome explanation for years of feeling miserable and sick, and the inconvenience of a gluten-free diet is a small price to pay for being able to feel consistently healthy and well. Even minute amounts of exposure to gluten make them feel so awful for days, that they take painstaking measures to avoid it at home, as well as when eating out, traveling and celebrating special events.

But even with the growing popularity of gluten-free lifestyles and increasing availability of gluten-free packaged foods and restaurant menu items, it can still be quite inconvenient to follow a strict, GF diet.

Vigilance Fatigue

When you really want pizza or pasta, it sucks to have to order a salad when dining out because it’s the only gluten-free menu item. It can be embarrassing to grill restaurant servers about menu items and prep methods when dining out, especially if sharing a meal with work colleagues or out on a date.

It’s annoying to have to bake your own gluten-free birthday cakes because there’s no gluten-free bakery in your area. It’s also sad to miss out on your mom’s famous fill-in-the-blank-of-your-favorite-nostalgic-dish because it’s made with flour, and her attempts at gluten-free substitutes just don’t taste the same. Trust me, I get it: I’ve been living with celiac disease for the past 12 years.

For any/all of these reasons, many of my patients seem to experience a “vigilance fatigue” after months or years of strict attention to avoiding cross-contamination, reading labels and always erring on the side of caution when eating out. It may result in laxity with adhering to the GF diet: not grilling their servers about ingredients when dining out, ignoring the likelihood of soy sauce in a dish or opting for the side of French fries, knowing that they likely shared a deep fryer with battered or breaded menu items. Still others knowingly “cheat” on their GF diet with various degrees of frequency – from just once in a while to once a week.


My patients with celiac disease who only experience mild symptoms when consuming gluten – and especially those who have “silent celiac disease” and experience no noticeable symptoms at all – can find it especially hard to stay motivated to consistently follow their medically-necessary GF diet.

Beyond the fatigue factor, some people with celiac disease don’t fully understand what actually happens inside their bodies when they eat gluten, and how one random bite of cake or stolen moment with a croissant can have longer-lasting impact than just the duration of the bloating, stomachache or diarrhea it provokes.

Recently, I met a new patient who continued eating gluten for 4 years after a celiac disease diagnosis. She did so believing that her mild symptoms of temporary gas and bloating after eating gluten meant that she didn’t have it “as bad” as her brother, who got violently ill with even trace exposure. Although she had such severe iron deficiency anemia that it required intravenous iron infusions, no doctor had ever pointed out the connection between her ongoing gluten consumption and the likely nutrient malabsorption as a result of it. Damage was being done to her gut with each exposure, even when it didn’t feel so bad.

The Lasting Effects of Gluten

“The inflammatory response when a person with celiac disease is exposed to gluten starts within just a few hours, and involves the propagation, migration and invasion of white blood cells into the gut’s lining,” explains my gastroenterologist colleague, Dr. Eric Goldstein of East River Gastroenterology and Nutrition in New York City. But the duration of this inflammatory process set off by even a single, seemingly small intake of gluten will far outlast the particular digestive journey of the food itself.

Start to finish, the cascade of inflammatory reactions isn’t hours-long or even days-long, but more likely weeks-long. “The lymphocyte (white blood cell) invasion of the gut’s tissues stimulated by that bit of cake doesn’t just disappear immediately; it can be going on even a week later. And once the storm is over, it can take another week to re-grow the damaged gut cells – and then those cells may take several more days to mature and start producing their normal levels of digestive enzymes.”

Let’s say you have celiac disease, you pay close attention to your gluten free diet, but you still have one or two accidental, isolated exposures per year. According to Dr. Goldstein, there will be plenty of time for your gut to heal between these exposures.

But if you’re chronically lax with your gluten-free diet and have intentional or unintentional exposures even a few times per month, “you’re piling on additional injury while the gut is still going through the previous injury. The gut never gets a chance to heal before the next exposure, and this leads to chronic inflammation … and this is the case even if you are following your gluten-free diet ‘most of the time.'”

The risks of poorly-managed celiac disease are well-documented. They include:

People with celiac disease are also at elevated risk for developing certain cancers of the small intestine, and there’s the strong suggestion – but not conclusive data – that better adherence to the gluten-free diet may reduce this risk. So as much as I miss some of the goodies from my old, pre-celiac life, the fleeting pleasure of a stolen bite of croissant isn’t worth sacrificing my long-term health for.

These are, we kid you not, actual questions people Google about Cinco de Mayo


You know the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question?”

Turns out, there is.
And when it comes to Cinco de Mayo — the annual fiesta that gives Americans an excuse to load up on tacos and margaritas — people ask a LOT of them.
These are actual questions people asked on Google about the Mexican holiday, which is actually a bigger deal in the US than it is in Mexico.
Cinco = 5. de Mayo = of May. So, May 5.
Cinco de Mayo.
On Cinco de Mayo.
*Sigh. On Cinco de Mayo.
We’ve been through this already.

When was the Cinco de Mayo war?

There was no Cinco de Mayo war.
The holiday celebrates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It was a relatively minor battle — the French reclaimed Puebla a year later — but a symbolic one because a small Mexican army defeated a larger occupying force. By 1867, Mexican troops had driven France from the country.
Many Americans assume Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s not. That holiday falls on September 16 and commemorates the Grito de Dolores, a priest’s ringing of a church bell in the town of Dolores in 1810 that triggered Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain.

Is Cinco de Mayo the Day of the Dead?

No. Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a three-day holiday in which families across Mexico gather to remember deceased friends and family members. It’s usually held from October 31 to November 2.
Wherever you want it to be. If your party game is strong, Cinco de Mayo could even be a state of mind.
We give up.
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Lazy People, Rejoice: Costco Is Now Selling Premade Jell-O Shots

Once again, Costco is here for the win!
Everyone knows that Jell-O shots can take a party from literally-I-should-have-stayed-home to lit in a matter of minutes. But the prep work they require? No one has time for that. Lucky for all the lazy, boozy broads out there, Costco is making it easy to get our fix by selling these premade gelatin shots.
Spotted on the popular @CostcoBuys Instagram account, the warehouse retailer is now carrying Shotty’s party packs. The 24-shot pack retails for about $20 and contains four flavors: strawberry, watermelon, blue raspberry, and grape.
The shots are conveniently packaged in a carryable pouch that doubles as a cooler bag. So toss it into a vat of ice and take gelatin shots that haven’t dissolved into a watery mess on the go. Responsibly, of course!
According to the brand’s website, each shot contains 12.5% ABV, and the shots are all-natural and gluten-free. So convenient and healthy? Got it.
Now, there is one downside. Shotty’s are only being sold at select Costco retailers in the San Diego area and in Arizona. Though the company noted to People that they plan on expanding into Costcos nationwide by summer.
So, who’s going to let us borrow their Costco card?

Select Food Delivery Services Are Changing Their Policies Because Of Coronavirus

Recently, many companies have begun conducting all business remotely as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. That means many — possibly including you — are working from home. You may think that being confined to your apartment is the perfect time to use the genius technology that is food and grocery delivery apps, however, having items delivered to your home still means having to come into contact with at least one other human being. Or does it? It turns out a few delivery services thought ahead and are now offering zero-contact delivery.
Last week, Postmates announced it was introducing Dropoff Options, which allows customers to specify how they want to receive deliveries. You can meet the delivery at the door, at the curbside, or choose “non-contact.” Non-contact deliveries will simply be left at your door. In its announcement of the new Dropoff Options, Postmates wrote, “We know there are always people who, for health and other reasons, might prefer a non-contact delivery experience and we believe this will provide customers with that option.”
Taking advantage of the new Dropoff Options is easy. Place your order on the Postmates app the same way you’ve always done, and before checking out, you’ll be prompted to select your delivery preference. That WFH life just got taken to a whole new level.
Postmates isn’t the only delivery service that recently added new delivery options. Instacart announced “Leave at My Door Delivery” late last week. According to the company, it has been testing “Leave at My Door Delivery” with select customer groups across the U.S. and Canada for the past few months. Though the new feature wasn’t created in direct response to COVID-19, Instacart explained that it did notice a significant surge in the number of consumers using the feature over the last week. This prompted a roll-out to all Instacart customers.
Like with Postmates, you can choose the “Leave at My Door Delivery” option when you checkout on the Instacart app. You’ll receive a real-time photo alert when your groceries are at your doorstep, so you can grab them ASAP.

How Starbucks & Other Chains Are Updating Their Policies To Fight The Coronavirus

This story was originally published on March 13, 2020 and will be continuously updated in the coming days.
So many of our daily interactions are part of a long chain of contact. Our packages zoom across the world before we welcome them into our homes. We order food, rent clothes, share cars, gyms, and even homes. We live in constant contact with one another and in times of social distancing, we take small steps to scale back potential exposure.
Restaurants and fast food joints are springing into action, some to strictly inhibit the further spread of the novel COVID-19, others to surface the products and services you’re more likely to turn to now that you’re working from home. It’s important not to panic, but we should still be smart: wash our hands often, disinfect communal surfaces, limit our movement, and avoid large crowds. These restaurant chains are going the extra mile in doing their part and also working hard to give you peace of mind.


Be prepared to have your reusable tumblers and hot cups turned away, as Starbucks has temporarily suspended its reusable cup program. Today, CEO Kevin Johnson announced that the company will be taking further measures, like limiting in-restaurant seating. In some cases, it will shift stores to “mobile order-only scenarios” or just drive-thru. In more extreme cases, Starbucks has stated it will resort to closing individual stores.


Starting Monday, March 16, Sweetgreen will transition to a fully-online experience, which means that only pick-up and delivery orders will be fulfilled. Delivery is now free. Customers will not be allowed in restaurants until pick up times. Some stores might be closed and operating hours might be reduced.
In a March 13 email to customers, Sweetgreen announced it will make hand sanitizer widely available to guests as well as personnel dedicated to cleaning communal surfaces. While the company plans to maintain regular operations, it is prepared to shift to “pick-up only ordering scenarios” or only catering to delivery orders placed through the app.


Starting Monday, March 16, Chick-Fil-A will be closing down its seating areas. Drive-thru services will continue when available and so will delivery, take out, and pick up orders.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell announced on Friday that it will cater only to delivery and pick-up orders, effectively closing down sitting areas. It will also provide drive-thru services, where available.

Just Salad

Starting Monday, March 16, Just Salad will waive all delivery fees on orders paid through the app and on its website, and deliveries will now be fully contactless. Those who insist on pick-up orders will be met at the door by an employee.
Starting March 17 in-store ordering and dining in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Chicago will be suspended until further notice.
Just Salad has recently taken steps to halt the reusable bowl program it’s best-known for. The company stresses that its reusable bowl program adheres only to the highest hygiene standards but the company said it recognizes that the program, “could create additional anxiety” for some guests. As of March 13, anyone who brings in a reusable bowl will be served salad in one of Just Salad’s disposable bowls but will still get the free topping benefit.


Starting Sunday, March 15, Chipotle is aiding limited social contact by offering free delivery through the end of the month. Orders will be trackable thanks to a newly-introduced delivery tracker.



The humble burger is no longer even remotely humble. It’s become rather arrogant really, what with all the mac and cheese patty toppings, glazed poppy seed brioche buns and dry-aged, hand-reared, grass-fed beef patties dripping with truffle sauce.

Thanks to the quest for Instagram likes, it’s not unusual for a burger to be stacked so high with so many toppings that you can’t even get your mouth round it, thus requiring dismantling and the use of a knife and fork, which defeats the whole point of a burger in the first place.

But has this all gone too far? Could our beloved burgers be – gasp – over?


For the past few years, food experts have been proclaiming that we’ve reached “peak burger,” and yet the burgers have kept coming, becoming ever more outlandish and appearing with increasing prominence on Instagram.

When accompanied by a mountain of chips and a milkshake, many of us are guzzling down our recommended calorie allowance in one meal, in stark contrast to the equally popular “clean eating” movement.

But as food trucks, fast burger chains and casual restaurants battle it out, high-end dining establishments are moving away from the burger.

A few days ago, top chef April Bloomfield, who’s famous for burgers, spoke out to say she would not be serving them at her new restaurant, Hearth & Hound.

“I’ve gotten burgers out of my system,” Bloomfield said.

And swiftly following her declaration, the top chefs behind the legendary Minetta Tavern burger, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr revealed they’re so over making a fuss about burgers.

“There was a time where the burger was kind of this sidekick, and we kind of want to put it back there,” says Hanson.

The pair think we’re all too obsessed with burgers: “Let’s get them obsessed about veal knuckles,” says Nasr.

In recent years, the food scene has expanded to place more prominence on hot dogs and pulled meat buns, and the whole concept of the gourmet burger seems a bit overdone, with even McDonald’s getting in on the scene with their new “Signature Collection.”

Recent figures show that supermarket sales of burgers have dropped by a quarter, and according to Mintel, 28 per cent of Brits have cut down their meat consumption over the past six months.


For some, the standard frothy cappuccino will never suffice as an adequate caffeinated drink of choice.

In order to be deemed worthy of the “hipster” target market, a coffee must be served in some unconventional manner, such as in an avocado or a carrot.

Broccoli coffee is the latest coffee trend to have surfaced and it’s (unsurprisingly) dividing opinion.

The idea behind the concoction has been created by Hort Innovation and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia in an effort to make use of nutritious vegetables that would otherwise go to waste.

Lead researcher behind the project, Dr Mary Ann Augustin, has explained how making the most of powdered vegetables could be beneficial for the health of consumers and also profitable for producers when added to smoothies, soups or baking mixtures.

“The powders are an option for farmers who wish to produce value-added vegetable ingredients for the lucrative functional food markets,” Dr Augustin said.

The broccoli powder consists solely of whole broccoli, with two tablespoons of the powder containing approximately one portion of the vegetable.

While the intention of the broccoli powder is to provide a wholesome way for coffee drinkers to increase their daily vegetable intake, is this trend as nutritious as consumers are being led to believe?

In 2011, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry assessed whether vegetables that had been transformed into supplements could be as beneficial as they are in their original state.

The researchers came to the conclusion that the body absorbs far fewer of the nutrients found in broccoli when consumed in its supplement form.

However, another study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine discovered that consuming a fruit and powder mix over a 90-day period can reduce an individual’s blood pressure.

While there are supposed health benefits to adding powdered vegetables to your diet in addition to the profitability of recycling vegetables that would have otherwise been thrown away, one of the biggest questions has yet to be answered: does broccoli coffee actually taste good?

The “broccolatte” is being served at Commonfolk Cafe, which is based in Victoria, Australia.

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The baristas have put the beverage to the test by making it available to their customers.

One person was evidently none-too-pleased with the drink, describing it as a “bowl of green, milky mush.”

However, others have professed that it’s a great way to increase your daily vegetable intake.

Some people have expressed their views on Facebook, with many making their disapproval for the trend abundantly clear.

“Just stop the madness! Leave coffee alone!” one comment read, while another person wrote: “There are some people in this world that are born just to mess [up] everything that is beautiful!”

However, others have praised the innovation for its sustainability.

“With all the fruit and veg that’s wasted cos it doesn’t fit the right cosmetic profile for grocery stores it’s a wonder all of it isn’t used to make these powders to add to meals for extra nutrients [sic],” another comment read.