Restaurants in Northern Colorado are shifting towards delivery and takeout as a precaution for the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak.

And one local independent delivery service created by a local collective of restaurant owners is committed to helping many of the area eateries stay in business.

NoCo Nosh is preparing its staff for a surge in orders — and stocking them up with hand sanitizer — as “social distancing” has been recommended by health officials around the world.

The delivery service already partners with more than 120 restaurants in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, and is taking more on. NoCo Nosh Director of Operations Michael Atkinson said about another 20 establishments have inquired about joining NoCo Nosh over the past weekend.

Restaurants, which are already known to operate on slim margins, are forecasted to struggle with the closure of many dining rooms as a preventative measure to stall the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

“This is going to be really trying times for the restaurant community,” Atkinson said in a phone interview. “We are rapidly trying to accommodate everyone as fast as we can...We hope we can help keep restaurant businesses afloat.”

NoCo Nosh, started by a collection of Northern Colorado restaurant owners in January 2019, uses independent contractors to deliver food from restaurants of varying cuisines. — similar to how rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft operate. Unlike other national delivery services, NoCo Nosh only uses local restaurants with their consent.

The service typically staffs about 80 different drivers throughout Northern Colorado a week but has about 160 signed up. 

Atkinson said NoCo Nosh feels confident in its current number of drivers, but will prioritize offering new positions to anyone in the restaurant/service industry who are laid off or have reduced hours.

“We are incredibly concerned about the restaurant community and how the employees might suffer,” Atkinson said.

NoCo Nosh employees are all being stocked with gloves and hand sanitizer this week. Orders are all completed on the NoCo Nosh website or app, so no cash is ever exchanged. 

Customers also now have the option to order no-contact delivery, where food is left at the doorstep of patrons. About a quarter of all orders from this weekend used the no-contact option.

“We are doing everything we can to keep restaurant employees, our drivers and customers healthy,” Atkinson.

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