SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Restaurants have been hit hard during the pandemic but one neighborhood in San Francisco is banding together to help — and they’re setting an example for the entire Bay Area.

In San Francisco, it is the Italian food that brings people to North Beach. So when the pandemic shut down all the restaurants, residents in the neighborhood saw what a loss it was.

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“You can’t overstate how important they are,” said Danny Sauter, president of the North Beach Neighborhood community group. “I mean, they give the neighborhood character. We see when one of them leaves, how much of a gap, how much of a hole it leaves in the community.”

As restaurants struggled with only curbside sales, private online delivery services were charging them 30 to 40 percent on every order.

“Thirty-forty percent eats up everything they got,” said North Beach resident Eric Dew. “For every pizza pie that they deliver, the restaurant loses money at the end of the day. That’s not acceptable.”

So four guys from the neighborhood: Sauter, Dew, Teddy Kramer and Sri Artham got together and formed a group called “North Beach Delivers.” Each Thursday night since the shelter-in-place began, about 10 volunteers have been delivering meals from a selected restaurant to an area within walking or biking distance. The first restaurant to try it was Piazza Pelegrini on Columbus Avenue.

“At first, you know, it felt like a gift from the skies. We definitely needed that,” said the restaurant’s owner, Dario Hadjian.

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But then word of the program began to grow and so did the orders.

“It really took a few weeks to grow and build up,” said Sauter, “Now we’re to the point where, every time we partner with a restaurant, it turns out to be their most successful evening of sales since the pandemic started.”

One restaurant, Mister Jiu’s, made $5,000 on one night thanks to North Beach Delivers and some customers have made a regular thing of ordering dinner each Thursday from the latest restaurant of the week featured on the group’s website. In the five months since the stay-at-home began, North Beach Delivers has helped generate more than $50,000 in sales for area restaurants.

“And now it’s gotten to the point where we’ve got a wait list for two months, with restaurants that want to participate, because the impact that we are making is real both financially but also emotionally,” said co-founder Teddy Kramer.

North Beach Delivers has inspired some restaurants to set up their own delivery systems and the volunteers say there’s no reason the model couldn’t be used to help any neighborhood in any city. It just takes people willing to stop feeling bad for restaurants and start doing something to help them.

“We’re doing everything we can to save every single restaurant in this neighborhood,” said Kramer. “Our ultimate goal is to build a system that will allow them to live forever.”

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WEBLINK: North Beach Delivers