Online food delivery apps help and hurt local restaurants —

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When Lizeth Morales took over her mother’s restaurant eight years ago, she didn’t worry much about its pick-up and delivery business. When it comes to cultural food, people prefer the sit-in experience, she says—and El Gordo, her Peruvian restaurant, didn’t break the mold. Her customers liked to linger, savoring her homestyle ceviche and rotisserie chicken.

Eventually, Morales established to-go options for the restaurant’s four locations in New Jersey. They were a steady but small part of her business. But when the pandemic hit, her restaurants went from serving customers indoors 70% of the time to zero.

Morales, 38, was prepared. She attributes it to her upbringing: Once at risk of being deported back to Peru, she knew what it is like “to hit rock bottom already.” At the height of the pandemic, she used social media platforms to make sure her community knew that her restaurant was still there to serve them—while following Covid-19 safety guidelines, of course.

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