Social distancing puts severe strain on Orlando’s service-based economy


Alfresco brunch at Maxine's on Shine - PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett
  • Alfresco brunch at Maxine's on Shine
In recent years, there’s been a move to present Orlando as more than just the theme parks. Travel articles in publications from Bon Appétit to the New York Times have extolled the virtues of “the other Orlando,” an Orlando for adults, and the main driver of this praise has been our robust restaurant scene.

Orlando’s diverse population brings together flavors from around the world, from Brazilian to Vietnamese to Ethiopian. From Restaurant Row to Milk District food truck pods, swanky downtown Winter Park to the hipster melting pot of Mills 50, we serve cuisines of every type and price point.

Right now, both Orlandos are suffering as the city shuts down in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. With the theme parks closed through the end of March and possibly longer and social distancing rules in effect, the strain on our city’s service-based economy will be severe.

Tourist-area and theme-park cooks and servers, many employed by third-party contractors with little stake in doing the right thing, may soon be adrift. And in "locals-only Orlando," not just restaurant owners but chefs, waitstaff, bartenders, baristas, and local meat and produce purveyors will suffer.

Food prep and food service jobs make up 10 percent of Florida’s workforce. The dollars they earn go back into the community.

We can all help by supporting local businesses. Restaurants are the heart of our community, and we all want to see them still standing when this is over.

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— Due to rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Central Florida events have been postponed or canceled. Orlando's restaurants, venues and hospitality workers could use your support right now. Order takeout, buy gift cards and tip generously – but also call ahead to venues to make sure an event is still happening. As always, follow CDC guidelines on staying safe.

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