NEW YORK — Inside Staten Island's Panini Grill Restaurant, workers are preparing ingredients in the hopes of lots of take-out orders for dinner.
The dining room that used to allow 20 people to eat inside is empty since indoor dining is no longer allowed.
Peter Macri, who owns the eatery, said relying only on takeout and delivery has been crippling.
"We definitely miss the dining room. You know, that was our thing. We're not doing the same specialties that we did before. We're not selling the same amount of booze that we did before — wine and liquor, which that's where profitability is for restaurant owners. So it's been rough," he said.
Panini Grill has had to reduce staff and hours to stay open at all.
This holiday season there are no large parties and catering orders, which usually bring lots of patrons and lots of revenue.
But a pair of Staten Island not-for-profit leaders have a plan they say will help restaurants stay afloat, while at the same time help tackle the island's growing hunger crisis.
They're calling it Staten Islanders for Staten Island.
Joanne Gerenser runs a nonprofit for people with autism, and helped start the initiative.
"There's so many issues right now between people struggling that never struggled before, on top of the people who have always struggled, and restaurants and businesses, so we kind of thought this would be win, win, win," she said.
So far, more than 50 restaurants, including Panini Grill, have signed up to participate.
They'll offer meals for four to six people that cost either $75 or $125.
Restaurants will choose their own menu, and anyone interested in donating only has to call up and order from the Staten Islander for Staten Island menu, which will help feed more than 300 individuals and families through Project Hospitality.
Carol Bullock of the Pride Center of Staten Island is a co-organizer.
"You have to figure out the positive way to act. And I think that's what we're trying to do, is find the positive solution here that helps,” Bullock she told.
The group has also partnered with Staten Island's Jewish Community Center to help provide kosher meals to those in need.
Meals will be delivered to Project Hospitality either on December 18, the end of Hanukkah, or December 23, in time for whatever holiday they celebrate.
And there's already talk of extending the effort past the new year.
For a full list of participating restaurants, head to eden2.org/holidays
Did you know you can now watch, read and stay informed with NY1 wherever and whenever you want? Get the new Spectrum News app here.