Coconut Grove leaders, Freebee unit to aid restaurants
Leaders of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District (BID) have found a novel way to help restaurants keep their doors open and retain their staffs, while help feed a restaurant-going community that’s used to having a vast array of dining choices.
When restaurants were ordered to cease table service, “my priority was to act fast,” said Ken Russell, BID chair and Miami commissioner. “We saw what happened in other countries; that lag time was enough for restaurants to lay off staff and close. Abigael had the idea to repurpose the Freebee service to deliver food, not people.”
The switch also required no expenditure of funds beyond what was already allocated for the Freebees, said Abigael Mahony, BID executive director. Freebees are vehicles similar to golf carts that people hail with their electronic devices to get a ride within a limited area, in this case the 33133 ZIP code. Most recently, the BID used them to give Coconut Grove visitors and residents rides to and from restaurants.
Now, customers order food for delivery as they always have; the restaurant contacts Freebee and sets up the delivery directly with the service.
Acceptance by the restaurants and the public (the service is limited to BID member restaurants and residents/visitors in the 33133 ZIP code) has been enthusiastic and immediate, Ms. Mahony said. Beyond a core group, more restaurants have signed on to be part of the service as the idea caught on.
And, Mr. Russell pointed out, having food packaged by restaurant staff trained in food hygiene exposes consumers to fewer people and risks than a trip to the grocery store would.