Maybe tonight you can forget about cooking dinner — which you’ve likely been doing for weeks — and order something from one of our local restaurants.

It won’t just be a break for you, but a giant boost for our local eateries, all of whom are hurting. It’s been estimated that when this is finally over, more than 70% of restaurants nationwide will be out of business. That’s a staggering figure. We really need to do now, tonight, whatever we can to save our favorites here.

Someone who’s been doing that in a big way is Melissa Brinkman. For the past month, she’s made it her mission to order takeout — mostly dinners for herself and her children, but on occasion, lunch, which she shares with co-workers at Custom Alarm.

"I do this anywhere from three to five times a week, and I’m focusing exclusively on locally owned establishments," she said.

So far, she’s been to Grand Rounds, Bleu Duck, Mr. Pizza, Pasquale’s, The Tap House, Wildwood, Atori, Canadian Honker, Pappy’s Place and more. Wherever she goes, Brinkman takes a photo of the restaurant and what she ordered and posts it on Facebook, which has inspired others to do the same.

With the shift from dine-in to takeout, local chefs and cooks aren’t letting quality suffer.

"The food has always been hot and fresh, not from a steam cooker," Brinkman said. "I ordered a hamburger from Canadian Honker and wondered how it would be by the time I got home. It was perfect."

Extra precautions

At this point, there is no evidence indicating that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, though many people are wiping down the outer packaging anyway. Regardless, basic precautions should be taken on both sides.

Most restaurants now offer "contact-free" deliveries, in which the driver leaves the food on your doorstep. Many are also using touch-free and cashless transactions and taking credit card numbers over the phone, including tips for the drivers. Please, tip well. These folks are working hard during a difficult time.

Whether food is delivered or you pick it up, take it out of the packaging and wipe any surface it touched. You might also think about placing the bag in the sink, then you can sanitize just that area. Remove food and place it on a plate, getting rid of the packaging. Then wash your hands thoroughly before you sit down to eat.

‘Dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s’

To see how our local restaurants are dealing with takeout, I contacted a few. As well as preparing quality dishes, sanitizing kitchens and other work areas is a priority for all of them.

"We are dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s," said Sheila Pappas of Pappy’s Place(507-258-4550). "We’re down to just two of us, myself and two cooks, one being my husband, Chris."

Twigs has two kitchens, one of which is gluten-free, and they, too, are sanitizing, keeping distances in the kitchens, and wearing gloves, like everyone else is. They offer pickup and will deliver within five miles. You can place an order through their Facebook page, or by calling 507-288-0206.

Beetle’sis also in the battle, observing strict sanitation rules. To place an order, you can call ahead (507-529-9599) or visit their website. Usually a hopping place, Beetle’s manager Josh Campion said they’re averaging 15 to 30 orders a day — "a fraction of what we usually do."

Prescott’s(507-536-7775) is taking it day to day, said co-owner Jenna Rohe. She urges customers to call ahead, since they don’t accept walk-in orders and aren’t offering delivery. They also limit the number of people coming in to pick up order, and credit card numbers are taken over the phone.

As most of us are, I’m looking forward to having the full dine-in restaurant experience again. That day will come. Until then, let’s support our local eateries with takeout.