As NYC’s restaurants and bars continue to reel from the ongoing shutdown on dining in, a new website is looking to direct more funds to them in the form of gift cards. While many restaurants sell gift cards on their website, Help Main Street is a new site that aggregates them in one place. While gift cards will by no means solve the ongoing crisis — there’s no guarantee of many restaurants opening again — they do act as a sort of short-term, no-interest loan that can help restaurants stay afloat during the shutdown.
The website now features nearly 14,000 establishments across the country, though a majority of the ones listed on the site — about 3,000 — are in New York City, founder Nabeel Alamgir tell Eater. Alamgir runs the food startup Lunchbox, a delivery service for restaurants that counts about 400 establishments among its members. He mobilized his 14-person team to get the gift card website up and running on Sunday after receiving a call from investor Nihal Mehta, who runs the company Eniac Ventures.
Mehta and Alamgir discussed ways to support the restaurant industry right now, and the gift card website sprung up as a result of that with Eniac Ventures’s backing. Restaurants aren’t charged to be on it, nor are customers to use it. Businesses can be found by entering by typing in the city’s name in the search function or can even be narrowed down by zip code.
For the most part, Alamgir’s team used its own internal search functions to locate restaurants offering gift cards, but in some cases, it has also received information from local governments that shared lists that have now made it on to the website. There’s also a function on the website that lets restaurants add themselves or users add places on there.
Restaurants on the website show up on a map, and each restaurant point takes users directly to the purchase page for the gift card.
Alamgir says he has plans to expand the gift card site globally with restaurants in Canada, the U.K., and France being added next. Since the shutdown on dining in at the city’s restaurants went into effect last week, restaurateurs and others in the industry have mobilized in a variety of ways with fundraisers for the thousands of workers that have lost their jobs, and some restaurants have transformed into community kitchens to serve meals to those in need.