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Creative & Charitable Campaigns Coming to the Rescue

Despite the downfall, the restaurant industry is giving back

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
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5 min read
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Our entire focus is on strategizing to get as many people as possible back to work.
– Annie Blake, partner of Death or Glory in Delray Beach, Florida


As the pandemic forges on, the saying “We’ve all got to eat” is more evident than ever. According to MarketWatch.com, coronavirus-related unemployment claims in the US reached 30 million by late April. One of the hardest-hit industries is the restaurant trade, which struggles to remain afloat as the crisis continues. On April 24, The Houston Chronicle published a report with a staggering set of statistics:

• 1 out of 5 restaurant owners estimates surviving the pandemic, despite stimulus funding.

• 8 million jobs (2 out of every 3) have been lost in the restaurant industry.

• $30 billion of restaurant revenue was lost during the month of March, alone.

• $240 billion in sales is projected to be lost by the industry by the end of 2020

The harsh reality is that the simple pleasure of dining out as we once knew it may never be the same, but single-outpost owners, large restaurant groups, and food distributors are doing all they can to support the industry.

A Small Restaurant Supports Laid Off Employees

Prior to the pandemic, more than 1 million restaurants were in operation in the United States, many of them being small businesses. Death or Glory, which just celebrated its 3rd anniversary on April 17, is a laid-back restaurant and cocktail bar located in downtown Delray Beach, Florida. The concept features seasonal, fresh food, and innovative craft cocktails. “We are located in a 100-year-old home, and we treat our guests like family,” shares partner Annie Blake.

However, Death or Glory has taken a sizable hit due to the coronavirus outbreak. “Even with takeout, sales are down about 90% of where they should be,” explains Blake, who had to let her entire staff go. “It was heartbreaking to have to lay them off.” Blake and her partners have offered to pay up to $1,000 in April rent for the employees as a gesture of good faith. 

In addition, Death or Glory recently received a $6,500 staff grant from the prestigious South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which, once funded, will go directly to said employees. Even still, a T-shirt drive through Cocktail Kingdom is currently underway, where 100% of the proceeds will benefit the outpost’s staff. “We are hoping to be able to rehire as much staff as possible through the PPP loan, too,” she says. “Our entire focus is on strategizing to get as many people as possible back to work.”

The Death or Glory team has also been working with The Socially Distanced Supper Club (of Delray Beach), a Facebook group that aims to “flash mob restaurants to keep them afloat in this turbulent time” with its 10,000 members and counting. “It has been a wonderful gift to the community,” offers Blake.

A Distributor Raises $1 Million in Food Donations

The Chefs’ Warehouse, a family-founded specialty food distributor that provides artisan ingredients to chefs, restaurants, and hotels, has partnered with several organizations to provide meals to those in need. The company has partnered with programs like The LEE Initiative, a restaurant worker relief program founded by James Beard Award-winning chef Edward Lee, as well as the #AskChefsAnything auction, which aims to benefit immigrant workers and their families.

“We are proud to support dozens of charity organizations across the US that are helping communities get back on their feet,” says Christopher Pappas, chairman and CEO. “Surpassing the $1 million mark in donations speaks to our dedication to support this industry we have been a part of for 35 years.”

With its impressive efforts, Pappas and his team have been able to supply more than 120,000 meals to out-of-work cooks, waiters, bartenders, and bussers around the country. In addition, The Chefs’ Warehouse is donating 10% of online retail sales (now available to non-industry food shoppers nationwide) to its furloughed employees and other foodservice members impacted by the crisis.

A Restaurant Chain Creates Charitable Apparel

Bonchon, a restaurant collective known for its signature double-fried chicken, has shifted to a delivery and takeout model at its more than 100 franchised outposts in 20-plus states. “Our franchise partners and company leaned in very early to delivery and carryout, and we have a great product that holds up well in those channels,” says CEO Flynn Dekker. “We’re proud to say that we’ve tightened our belt in other areas to keep all of our corporate team members employed,” he shares. However, not all Bonchon locations remain open, and sales have declined.

Because much of Bonchon is still thriving, Dekker and his team decided to partner with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NAEF) nonprofit’s Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF) to raise money for others struggling to make ends meet. “This is the first time we’ve partnered with the NRAEF,” says Dekker. “We felt it was the most efficient way to help those in need since they already had a system in place that could support our team members and industry friends.”

Through the Hearts & Soles campaign, in partnership with Threadless, Bonchon is selling limited-edition Buckfeet-brand sneakers, face masks, and socks designed by resident artist Leanne Aks, where all proceeds benefit the RERF and restaurant industry workers adversely affected by COVID-19. “We were trying to break through in a meaningful way, and support those hardest hit in our community that didn’t center on us just soliciting donations,” explains Dekker. “We felt this was a win-win. Threadless products are high-quality and they already had a system in place to easily create a branded shop to provide something of value, in exchange for helping others in the process.”


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