Made in Michiana: Website gathers reviews on how restaurants follow COVID protocols

Made in Michiana: Website gathers reviews on how restaurants follow COVID protocols

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SOUTH BEND, IN.-- Our Made in Michiana series continues with an inside look at a new website you might have seen making rounds on the internet.

It's called covidrestaurantreviews.com and has only been online for about 6 weeks, but in that short time it has already made its way to computer screen across the country!

The designer behind this website lives right here in South Bend!

“I mean this is like such unprecedented times right? Like we don’t, nobody knows the best thing here," said web designer, Ashley Swanson.

Whether it's the way we work, the way we relax, the way we learn, or even how we enjoy food--everyone is adjusting.

“I think specifically with restaurants and food you feel a little more vulnerable going into those places," said Swanson.

Which is exactly how Swanson and his wife felt when they were craving take out for dinner and were trying to figure out where to go for the first time since the pandemic.

“We were asking around to different friends who had been out and asking there’s this restaurant over here, what was your experience? And as we were talking, like it would be great if there was just a resource for this," said Swanson.

And then things just clicked for the content creator.

“Instantly my brain was like I think this is something I can do, like I love working with startups and nonprofits," said Swanson.

Using his web design skills and knack for problem solving, Swanson got to work on his newest project.

“About 6 weeks or so ago I launched a website called coivd restaurant review dot com which is basically a place where people can offer their reviews of how, their perception of how restaurants are following the COVID protocols," said Swanson.

To start, you just go to covidrestaurantreviews.com.

From there, you can either look up reviews of restaurants near you or you can submit your own thoughts by providing ratings to protocols made by the CDC.

“Whether or not the workers are wearing face masks, whether the tables are socially distanced, and availability of hand sanitizer," said Swanson.

From here, reviewers are asked to provide a comment to give that personal context people search for on review websites.

“It’s 2020. People know how to read reviews," said Swanson. "Like you don’t take the highest one, you don’t take the lowest one, usually the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

In the spirit of truth, the reviews are a two way street.

“We have built in a system where the restaurant owner can come in and respond to that and give their side to it and their context which I think is also helpful," said Swanson.

Which has created its own share of backlash.

“The concern restaurant owners have shared with this," said Swanson. "On one level, I get it cause these are just crazy times and I can’t imagine how hard these past 5 months have been for a restaurant owner. So anything that feels like a critique or a threat they just don’t want that.”

Concerns many in and out of the restaurant industry are feeling due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“The issue is so politicized that they think I am a part of it and I am not trying to make a case any way, and I really think that the more restaurants are taking it serious which I think most are in the area, and the more people are learning that the more it’s actually going to help restaurants," said Swanson.

Helpful to the thousands of people across the country taking part in the site.

“Anywhere from Detroit, St. Augustine, Tucson,  Washington, got some in Oregon and Kansas," said Swanson.

Which may sound like just points on a map--but the end goal, the 50 plus hours put in, was never just for clicks.

“Know how hard the restaurant industry has been hit," saod Swanson. "And honestly my hope is that as more people are informed they would be out at the restaurants more often. And so my hope is that something like this can give them the confidence to get back out, be attending these different restaurants and giving them their money and hopefully getting things to pick back up.”

If you are interested in checking out what restaurants have been reviewed in your area or if you want to leave one yourself just go right to covidresstaurantreviews.com.

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