As the novel coronavirus crisis continues, restaurants across the Garden State are getting creative in helping to serve members of their respective communities.

While all restaurants remain closed for sit-down service, Marilou Halvorsen, the president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said a growing number of them are expanding take-out options in different ways.

“They’re offering different packages ... pay what you can, lower-priced items," she said. "Pick-up and delivery is very important.”

She noted restaurants are also “offering different kinds of free meals for healthcare workers, who honestly probably are so exhausted they don’t have time to go home and cook for themselves.”

Assi Li Ponte, the owner of the Bonne Assiette restaurant in Pennington, has a low-priced menu for those in the community who are struggling financially. He’s also offering free entrees for all healthcare workers and other people who just can’t afford to pay anything.

“It's serious," he said. Ot’s a pandemic and everybody needs to come together. This is the way we can help. It’s the right thing to do.”

Ponte said he is not taking any salary at all, paying his employees with any money that’s coming in.

“We’re just trying to break even,” he said. "We’ll keep operating for as long as we can.This is our way of giving back.”

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Halverson said the generosity of the hospitality industry shouldn't be a surprise to anyone in New Jersey.

"We saw this during Hurricane Sandy,” Halverson said.

She pointed out some restaurants are also making it a point to feed laid-off restaurant workers.

“In the middle of all this chaos there is some light, and just some wonderful examples of humanity," she said.

Halvorsen said ordering from a restaurant is also an option even if you don’t need it when you order it.

“I had a delivery yesterday where they dropped it off at my front door with the instructions on how to cook it, because I wasn’t going to cook it that night," she said.

She added every family is facing different struggles, but “please order out. You don’t need to go to the most expensive restaurant in town. There’s a variety of different options available to you.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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