Lunchbox and Eniac launch a website for supporting local businesses

Many of you are probably looking for ways to support the restaurants and small businesses that are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, going out to your favorite restaurant right now is a real risk to public health — and that’s assuming it’s still open.

A new website called Help Main Street is offering a simple way for people to pitch in by searching or browsing through local business listings, then purchasing gift cards (or making Square payments). That way you can contribute cash to help business owners get through this crisis, and then redeem the card whenever things return to normal.

The site was created by a team of activists and technologists, including restaurant ordering startup Lunchbox and seed investor Eniac Ventures. Eniac’s Nihal Mehta told me that for the team, “This was a way to do a small part to help immediate victims of COVID-19 while releasing some nervous anxiety working from home.”

Help Main Street

To create the site, Lunchbox engineers have been scraping restaurant websites and validating gift cards. Help Main Street has 20,000 listings at launch, but Mehta is hoping that number will expand quickly as chambers of commerce, small business associations and individual users add new listings.

“We are hoping this will jumpstart a major crowdsourcing movement where merchants and customers alike will add,” he said.

Mehta added that the site will eventually introduce a way to offer “Patreon for merchants”-style recurring payments.