Nick Rama, founder of Nick's Local Eats, a public Facebook group launched seven years ago—and subgroups Tomball/Vintage Park Eateries and Spring/Woodlands Eateries—said his Facebook groups have given small businesses a platform to share their curbside pickup and to-go services all in one place. Rama also launched gift card giveaways March 19, encouraging members of the Facebook groups to support local eateries and take a photo of their to-go or delivery food to be entered to win a gift card that can be used at a later date for dining in at a participating local restaurant.
"It's giving the small businesses a platform to let people know, 'Yes, we are open," he said in mid-March, referring to the Facebook groups.
The Nick's Local Eats group members are no strangers to meeting community needs, Rama said. Rama said the community via 30 local restaurants came together during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 to feed about 20,000 people in two weeks.
However, supporting local eateries amid the state and county dine-in restrictions looks differently.
"I don't think it's come together quite as fast yet [as Harvey]," he said. "This so different because people are hunkering down and we're trying to figure out what we can do. Right now it's just trying to get the message out what restaurants are open and how to order and where to pick up."
Rama said the Tomball/Vintage Park Eateries group is the most active with more than 10,000 members.
"We're hoping for the best. Our groups are mainly surrounding just trying to help the mom-and-pops who don't have the advertising budgets," he said. "[We're] trying to help support these mom-and-pops because 2 weeks [of no dine-in customers] to them is probably three months to a corporate giant."
Houston Eats To-Go also launched in late March to help get word out about local restaurants remaining open in the Houston area, according to Rocquel Lewis, marketing director for the Michele Harmon Team, a real estate team creating the Facebook group.
The real estate team created the group to give Houstonians a way to support their local restaurant community, according to Lewis.
As of April 1, the group had grown to more than 1,600 members.
The Woodlands Spring, TX. Foodie Club, a private Facebook group, is also hosting a fundraiser for The Foodie Club Support Group, a public group created for restaurants to share available services and so-called "foodies" to search places to support amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to group information. The support group is selling shirts with proceeds supporting employees and owners in the food industry in need, according to fundraiser information.