On the night of March 16, Tristan Lutze decided he wanted to do something that would hopefully help Sydney restaurants and cafes get through the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s difficult to properly fathom what’s happening in the world right now,” he told Broadsheet. “Like everyone, I’ve been watching things unfold with this sense of helpless horror. Obviously many, many industries have been affected, but given I work so closely with chefs and restaurants, it’s the gloomy future of the hospitality industry that’s hit me hardest.”

His solution is Saving Plates, a website and Instagram account listing the increasing number of Sydney restaurants offering takeaway and/or delivery for the first time. He was inspired by food writer Dani Valent, who started #rescuepack in Melbourne, which has a similar mission. (Broadsheet also has a live list of local venues here).

“The margins for most of these businesses are absolutely tiny, and there’s no way they can survive even a couple of days of reduced business, let alone weeks or months,” he says.

Lutze is a Sydney-based food journalist – he writes for this publication, and his work has appeared in a number of other magazines, websites and on ABC radio. His first article for Broadsheet – titled “How Hard Can It Be to Run a Food Stall at Carriageworks Farmers Market?” – documented the time he decided to run a stall with not much more than “naive enthusiasm”.

He says the response by chefs to Saving Plates has been really strong, even though he’s only just begun to get the word out about the site. Sydney graphic designer Blaise Curran donated time to create the logo, and Sydney photographer Kitti Gould lent him a photo to use on the site.

“I’ve gotten a flood of emails and messages from desperate chefs who are doing anything they can to keep their businesses afloat. The really beautiful thing has been seeing them look out for each other too, with chefs forwarding the link to the site’s contact form between them.”

Already listed is Darlinghurst Sri Lankan restaurant Lankan Filling Station, Taco King at Waterloo pub The George, and CBD restaurant Prince of York.

Like all of us, Lutze doesn’t know how long the crisis will last, or what impact the predicted recession will have on Australia and beyond. He says it’s a small initiative but hopefully it will make a difference.

“If I help even a handful of restaurants sell a few extra meals each night, and those restaurants can in turn afford to pay their suppliers, then my small investment of time and money will have been worth it,” he says, “The industry has given me so much, and I just want to give something back.”