An ATL Food Bingo card. COURTESY OF ATL FOOD BINGO

ATL Food Bingo gamifies restaurant support during coronavirus slowdown

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s never been so rewarding to stay home and order takeout. Now, supporting local restaurants is a game you can win with ATL Food Bingo.

The game, loosely based on six different geographic areas around Atlanta, involves ordering takeout or gift cards of more than $20 from restaurants listed on special bingo cards. Get any five restaurants on one of the ATL Food Bingo cards, regardless of order, and you can enter that card in a raffle to win a restaurant prize pack worth $300. 

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Conceived and brought to life by Mariana Novak, a local video producer and actor, and Ted Golden, an entrepreneur and food writer known as Foodie Buddha, ATL Food Bingo developed over the course of a few days after the pair were inspired to help the restaurant industry. Novak had the initial idea and mocked up a bingo card which she shared on social media. She tagged Golden, who liked the idea so much that he offered his expertise to help make Novak’s idea a reality. 

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“I saw these influencers doing ‘quarantine bingo’ on social media with squares like, ‘stay in sweatpants all day,’” said Novak. “I thought it was funny but wanted to make something positive.”

Though the two had never met before, their complementary skill sets allowed them to efficiently bring ATL Food Bingo to life in less than a week. As an entrepreneur and restaurant consultant, Golden used his connections to quickly sign up restaurants, create a website and set up social media handles. Crucially, he also involved lawyer Matthew Wilson of AGG to ensure that the rules for the bingo game were all above board. “Matt was so helpful,” said Golden. “The lawyers provided the whole framework for the contest.”

Novak, who has her fair share of restaurant connections after working at Empire State South, designed all the bingo cards and signed up restaurants, too. Together, they were able to sign up more than 140 restaurants for the first round of the contest, which runs through April 13. Ensuing rounds will feature new restaurants and each will last for about two weeks. 

“It’s amazing how these restaurants that are really suffering were so willing to jump into this right away,” said Golden. “The support has been there right from the beginning. 

Golden explained that one reason for such strong buy-in from Atlanta’s restaurants is that ATL Food Bingo requires little time or financial commitment up front. He and Novak did not want to add to the workload of businesses that were already in survival mode. Still, many of the restaurants participating have donated gift cards, merchandise and experiences for the initiative. 

If you want to play, simply visit ATLFoodBingo.com to view and download bingo cards for one of the six neighborhoods you want to support. Purchase takeout or gift cards of more than $20 for any five of the restaurants. Then, scan or take pictures of your receipts and click “Submit Entry” on the ATL Food Bingo website. Fill out the form, upload your receipts and you’ll be entered to win an Atlanta restaurant prize pack worth $300 or more. Prizes donated by restaurants so far include a $150 gift card to Brush Sushi Izakaya and a multi-course dinner for two at Local Three. 

Novak is happy that her idea to support the restaurant industry has gained traction so quickly. “Even though I was only at Empire State South for about six months when I first moved to Atlanta, the people I worked with became like family,” she said. “I’ve checked on a few and could see this deep sadness in their eyes, and I just wanted to do something more.”

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant industry has been a source of concern and inspiration. Despite the need for social distancing, support for the industry has brought many people together, including Golden and Novak as they created ATL Food Bingo. By playing, Atlantans not only give themselves a chance to win - they’ll give Atlanta restaurants a chance, too. 

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