How Elgin Eats program aims to help downtown restaurants amid COVID-19 spike
With the recent return to shutdowns of restaurant dining rooms and bars, the Elgin Downtown Neighborhood Association has stepped up its efforts to make patronizing downtown eateries easier.
When the initial COVID-19 stay-at-home order came down this spring, the association created an online portal to downtown restaurants called Elgin Eats at www.downtownelgin.com/ElginEats/. They've recently updated the page to include all the dining and ordering options available from more than two dozen downtown businesses, including restaurants, bars, coffee shops and others serving food.
"It's like a one-stop shop portal for customers to engage with all of the downtown food service businesses and know accurate information about what they're offering right now," said Jennifer Fukala, the association's executive director.
The page has detailed information for 27 businesses, informing people about takeout and curbside options, and includes links to menus, online ordering and delivery services.
"As businesses continue to change and upgrade their offerings, we're working to keep that portal current, and it'll be a place where we can continue to build additional offerings into it as the businesses make those things available," Fukala said.
The association's marketing coordinator Jennifer Arndt said the page has been generating good traffic.
"The Elgin Eats campaign has brought thousands of people to DowntownElgin.com where analytic data has shown thousands of clicks going straight to the restaurants websites, menus and online ordering portals," Arndt said.
Fukala said they're promoting the page through all their social media accounts, and with Google ads and through their 12,000-person email list.
"We're pumping this through all our channels to get it in front of the community's eyes," she said.
In addition to the Elgin Eats portal, Fukala said the association has worked with the city to help provide reserved curbside pickup spaces for restaurants, as well as providing grants that restaurants have used to provide takeout options and online ordering.
The COVID adaptation grants totaled about $25,000 and were given out to businesses this summer, Fukala said.
While they weren't all for restaurants, Arabica Cafe used one to roll out a remote payment system, and Elgin Public House used a grant to redo its website to handle online ordering, she said.
"We're trying to be a be an asset for the downtown businesses," Fukala said. "We want to be seen as a support system and a resource for them that they're not going to necessarily get if they're located in other places."