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Five ways you can support local dining this holiday season

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November 23, 2020

We’ve all had our challenges in 2020, but few industries have had to adjust as much as the restaurant business.

Across South Dakota, family-owned and -operated dining establishments are centers of community – and they can use your help to end the year on a high note.

“So many family businesses put their heart and soul into their business, and that’s especially true with restaurants,” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association.

“We encourage our communities to remember these family businesses not just during the holiday season but into 2021 as they try to recover from an incredibly difficult year. Let’s help out the restaurant industry any way we can.”

At Sioux Falls-based Vanguard Hospitality, the ownership includes siblings Megan Meagher and Michael Gjernes, along with Ken Bashore and Meagher’s husband, Tim. Their restaurant Morrie’s Steakhouse is named after Gjernes and Meagher’s grandfather.

Ashley Buckley Photography

“So family is a huge part of what we’re all about,” Megan Meagher said.

“And this year has been unlike anything in our experience. We’re definitely not alone. Family restaurants across the state have had to navigate huge changes in delivery methods, inventory issues, staffing challenges, physical adjustments to the restaurants, menu overhauls, and the list just goes on and on.”

Vanguard’s restaurants also include Grille 26, Minervas in downtown Sioux Falls and Turks & Caicos Cabana Grille.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the support of our loyal guests, and we know, like the rest of the year, this holiday season is going to be anything but normal,” Meagher said. “We just appreciate anything anyone does to allow us to continue serving you.”

Here are five ways you can do your part to dine local – and have some delicious meals along the way.

Dine as you’re comfortable

Many restaurants, including the Vanguard ones, have made lots of adjustments to accommodate you however and wherever you choose to dine.

“Everyone’s comfort level is individual, and we recognize that,” Meagher said. “If you would like to dine in person but want to make sure you’re not exposed to many people, just give the restaurant a call. We usually can suggest times that are less busy or take your request into consideration when we seat you.”

Restaurants also have made big adjustments to accommodate carryout, curbside and delivery options.

“Again, it’s all about what’s right for you as a guest. So if you’d rather not come into the restaurant to pick up a meal, just let us know,” Meagher said. “And we’re proud of how we’ve worked with packaging and preparation to make sure the meal tastes fantastic in your kitchen just like if we were serving it to you ourselves.”

Treat others

Do you enjoy taking clients and friends out for coffee, lunch or happy hour? Don’t forget, you still can. Surprise a business associate with lunch delivered to the office from a favorite restaurant. Send your neighbor a family-style meal delivered to the door. Or drop off dessert and a beverage at friend’s, and enjoy a virtual social hour.

“We love making memories in our restaurants, but we can still make memories with our restaurants, and you don’t even have to walk in the door,” Meagher said.

“When you gift a meal, we promise you’re going to make someone’s day. And we love being part of the surprise.”

And don’t forget your team. Do you typically take the office out for a holiday meal or happy hour? Many restaurants can deliver that to your workspace – or you can even arrange for a pickup or home delivery that then allows your team to gather virtually to dine and socialize.

Don’t forget gift cards

Gift cards are a true win-win for restaurants and recipients. They support the restaurant financially right away, and they make ideal gifts for so many in your life.

“There are so many benefits,” Meagher said. “Your gift card recipient might love a to-go meal for the family during this busy holiday season, they might indulge in a home delivery over the winter, or when they’re ready to return the restaurant in person next year, your gift card will make that visit even better.”

Gift cards also make perfect tokens of appreciation for employees all year – so stock up at the end of 2020 and you’ll be ready to say thanks throughout 2021.

“We’ve all gotten through 2020 together, so if there’s someone who has made a difference for you this year or who you think might need a little pick-me-up, you never can go wrong with a local restaurant gift card,” Meagher said.

When you can gather, keep these places in mind

You might be putting a pause on holiday social gatherings and business events this year – but you won’t be forever.

So when you do feel comfortable meeting in groups again, keep family restaurants in mind.

“Many of us have multiple designated areas within our restaurants where we love to host groups – and that’s true anytime during the year,” Meagher said.

“We know friends, families and colleagues will love to get together in 2021 as the pandemic lessens, so please keep us in mind. And in the meantime, we still have those event rooms and private dining areas and often can space you out even more than normal, so even if you have a small group this holiday season, ask us, and we likely can accommodate you.”

Take care of those who take care of you

Great service doesn’t just happen – it takes a talented and dedicated team. So remember when you support local dining, you’re not just helping the owners.

“As family businesses, our employees become part of our family too,” Meagher said. “The worst part by far of 2020 has been the uncertainty that it’s brought for those on our team, so we’re really hopeful for a strong holiday season and good start to 2021.”

Consider tipping generously, whether you dine in or carry out.

And remember, the holiday season is hectic and stressful in a normal year – and it’s especially so this year. So if you encounter issues with your guest experience, try to be patient.

“I know I speak for many family restaurants when I say our No. 1 goal is that you have an amazing guest experience, so when we fall short, we’re as disappointed or more than you are,” Meagher said. “We want to hear from you personally so we can improve, but know that a little understanding goes a long way as we try to manage through all the uncertainty.”