For restaurateur Tracy Chang, founding and operating two nonprofits through the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t just a way to give back to the community. As she tells it, her Japanese tapas restaurant PAGU would’ve “drowned” if they had just stuck with takeout.

On Monday, Chang joined Boston Public Radio to talk about the national trajectory of both nonprofits, and how her Central Square restaurant is faring as patrons begin to find their way back.

“Definitely, people are eager to go out to eat,” she said. “We are still closed for indoor dining, just because we believe we need to take the time to do what’s safest for our employees and what’s most comfortable for them, but you’re definitely seeing more demand for dining out there.”

Like so many other restaurants throughout the United States, Chang was forced to close PAGU in March 2020 to keep her staff and customers safe. Looking for ways to support healthcare workers while providing her staff with a stream of income, she co-founded Off Their Plate, which provided 90 meals to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in its first week.

“We’ve always been in the business of making food, and making people happy,” she said. “It was just a matter of figuring out... the logistics of how to pack it up, how to label it properly, how to get it to the healthcare workers.”

Chang’s second nonprofit venture, Project Restore Us, offers groceries to essential workers struggling to make ends meet. The project, which started in May 2020, came about — at least partially — as a result of Chang’s appreciation for the dedication of her own staff, many of whom come from working-class Latinx and immigrant backgrounds. She called that subset of workers “the backbone of the hospitality industry,” and added that they’re "more vulnerable than ever.”

“There’s just this huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, and I think it’s our civic duty as restaurant owners — as folks with a platform to say and do something — to do so,” she said. “And the restaurant industry needs to change.”

Asked about the sorts of changes to hospitality Chang would like to see, the entrepreneur and chef pointed to better wages and training as obvious first steps.

“People are complaining they cannot hire right now,” she said. “Pay people more. Train them, learn their language, give them time off, give them reasonable hours, and maybe they’ll come work for you.”

As for the thousands who continue to benefit from Project Restore Us and Off Their Plate, Chang said both operations plan to “definitely” continue into the future, because the negative impact of the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.

“The reality is that these communities that have been hit the hardest are going to continue to be affected by COVID, whether it’s the lack of access to affordable foods, or also the long-term COVID side effects,” she said.