“It exploded” is how creator Jeff Allen described his Facebook page “Gering & Scottsbluff Local Menus.”
Locally owned restaurants are often among the hardest hit when a statewide emergency was declared in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allen, who has a background in community volunteerism, became increasingly concerned with the closures and orders for families to quarantine. He created an easy reference to help people find and support those small, independent restaurants during this time of crisis.
“The Facebook page is focusing strictly on locally owned restaurants because we get to talk directly with the owners,” Allen said. “Restaurants list their local menus, their hours, whether they offer delivery, curbside pickup or takeout. Some of them also list daily specials.”
Since the page was created five days ago, Allen said they’ve recorded more than 10,000 views. His goal was to eventually get about 300 likes for the page. In less than 48 hours, the number of likes has exceeded 700. He’s received inquiries from other counties that would like to start their own pages.
The purpose of the Facebook page is to be a single reference site for the public to learn more about the numerous locally owned restaurants in the local area. Some of the restaurants listed have received about 6,000 views since the page went live.
“I feel that it’s important to have one uniform page for people to refer to,” Allen said. “It’s an easy access page so we can continue to support our local businesses in this time of need.”
He added that every time someone views the page, they might decide to try out one of the featured restaurants. It might even be a restaurant that wasn’t on the viewer’s top-of-mind recognition.
Helping launch the “Gering & Scottsbluff Local Menus” page was Brenda Leisy, director of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau. When Allen was overwhelmed with getting the page online, Leisy offered her assistance.
“We might not be utilizing all these establishments at the current time, but we’ll need them when they open back up,” she said. “We’ll need them for all our visitors and guests at events like the Old West Balloon Fest. Some of those events are huge so it’s important we support our local restaurants in these difficult times.”
One of the locally owned restaurants listed on the “Gering & Scottsbluff Local Menus” page is 16th Empire in downtown Scottsbluff.
“Jeff came up with a great idea, especially at a time when there are restrictions on restaurants,” 16th Empire owner Ralph Paez said. “Utilizing the Facebook page has allowed us to post our menus and specials. Our carryout and curbside pickup service has been growing, so we’re able to pick up some of the slack where we’ve lost revenue.”
Allen said that through his years of volunteerism, he’s seen how a community can come together during a crisis to help heal the damage.
“The success of the page has nothing to do with me,” he said. “It’s a tribute to the small town, big-hearted people that want to make a difference. That’s the beauty of a small community.”