According to the National Restaurant Association, there are 15.6 million restaurant industry employees. As the current COVID-19 pandemic forces restaurants across the country to suspend business, slash hours, or shutter completely, many restaurant and hospitality workers are facing the long-term loss of income.
In response to the economic effects of the coronavirus, organizations, non-profits, and other charitable groups have responded swiftly to come to the aid of displaced workers who will need help covering housing, food, healthcare costs, while also keeping their businesses and staff afloat.
Here are some organizations that are helping food service workers in need right now, both nationally and locally.
Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation
The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation fights for gender equality, racial justice, fair wages, and healthy work environments in the restaurant industry. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, RWCF has shifted its full focus to support restaurant workers, small business owners, and other industry professionals. The RWCF COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund will allocate 50 percent of their donations for the direct relief to individual restaurant workers, 25 percent to non-profits serving restaurant workers in crisis, and 25 percent for zero-interest loans for restaurants to get back up and running.
RWCF is creating a list of resources related to the coronavirus crisis on its website and gathering data from affected workers and restaurant owners to work with local and national leaders to address the systemic issues the COVID19 pandemic has exposed.
Created by a team of restaurant industry professionals, SupportRestaurants.Org began a “Dining Bonds” initiative to provide restaurants impacted by COVID-19 immediate funds (even if they are temporarily closed).
A dining bond works like a savings bond. Consumers can purchase a "bond" at a value rate to be redeemed for face value at a future date. They are sold at a price lower than face value and redeemable at face value upon dining at the restaurant. The goal is to sell them for the next 30 days to bring needed income to the restaurants and have them redeemable typically 30 to 60 days after purchase. Diners can purchase directly from participating restaurants by calling. A map of all participating restaurants is on the SupportRestaurants.Org website.
Southern Smoke Foundation
Chef Chris Shepherd's (of Houston’s James Beard award-winning Underbelly Hospitality) Southern Smoke Foundation operates a year-round Emergency Relief Fund to help people in the industry pay for everything from rent to essential medications. To date, Southern Smoke has donated more than $1.6 million to individuals in crisis and organizations that represent the needs of the restaurant industry.
The fund supports the entire food chain—from farmers to bartenders to servers to cooks to brewers to wine makers and everyone in between. Southern Smoke is currently accepting both donations and applications from restaurant owners and service industry workers who are dealing with closed businesses or significant declines in revenue due to the coronavirus.
USBG National Charity Foundation
The United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) National Charity Foundation acts as a resource for the bar industry community. During these unprecedented times, the USBG National Charity Foundation is raising funds for their COVID-19 Relief Campaign to boost their Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. Those in the beverage industry in need of financial assistance can apply for an aid grant at www.usbgfoundation.org/beap.
James Beard Foundation
To help bring swift economic relief to restaurant businesses affected by the coronavirus, the James Beard Foundation has started their Open for Good campaign, which is the foundation’s commitment to helping independent restaurants survive this crisis, rebuild better, and thrive for the long term. Open For Good provides advocacy, grants, and resources for restaurants reopening their businesses.
Additionally, they are launching The James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans to provide financial resources for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals.
One Fair Wage
One Fair Wage is a campaign that fights to end unjust sub-minimum wages of tipped workers in America (the federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour). In response to the recent restaurant shutdown policies, OFW launched the Emergency Coronavirus Workers Support Fund in an attempt to raise $213,000 to provide cash assistance to tipped restaurant workers, delivery drivers, personal service workers, and others affected by coronavirus and the economic downturn. Donations are accepted through their website or here.
Another Round, Another Rally
Nonprofit Another Round, Another Rally gives reimbursement grants and educational scholarships to those with underrepresented voices in the community, as well as supplies emergency assistance to those employed in restaurants, bars, and hotels. Chefs, servers, bartenders, dishwashers, sommeliers, managers, or other hospitality positions are eligible for relief grants who lost their jobs or had hours cut due to the effects of COVID-19 outbreak.
Currently, their Nolet Family USA Relief Program provides relief in the form of eVouchers to nationwide retailers to help supplement groceries and other much needed essentials for those currently out of work that were employed by a bar or restaurant with a full liquor license. Through their Radical Xchange Charitable gifts for Black Mental Health Relief, ARAR provides mental health relief to Black hospitality workers in need. To apply for a grant or make a donation, visit ARAR’s website.
Founded by former Eleven Madison Park alum Chef Matt Jozwiak, Rethink Foods is a non-profit community kitchen organization that recovers excess food and provides them at low or no-cost meals to New York City families in need. Along with a team that includes chief strategy officer and chef Winston Chiu (Bonbite Catering, Little Tong), Rethink takes unused food from grocery stores, restaurants, events, and corporate offices and transforms them into ready-to-eat meals delivered to local human service organizations in New York City.
In light of recent events, Rethink has set up a restaurant response program — Rethink Certified — to help New York City-based restaurants by giving them grants to stay up and running. These restaurants act as an extension of Rethink and use their existing food supply (and additional from vendors) and turn them into nutritious meals to support those in need.
Since April 2020, Rethink Food has invested over $11.5M into 55 independent restaurants and has provided over 2.5 million meals for those facing food insecurity. Most recently, they’ve launched Xylem, a first-of-its-kind technology platform developed to connect Rethink Certified restaurants with receiving community-based organizations, allowing Rethink to scale distribution of meals to vulnerable communities.
Led by chef Eric Korn and restaurateur Louie Lanza, Million Gallons’ goal is to get local chefs in New York to take the ingredients from their restaurants and cook soup (1 million gallons) for the restaurant and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs. They are also assisting restaurant and hospitality workers and those displaced by COVID-19. Assistance is concentrated in Westchester County and New York City. For more information on how to apply as a restaurant, for assistance or to donate, please visit their website.
Behind You, Inc.
BEHIND YOU! provides financial assistance to food service employees in the north of Boston area who are unable to work due to illness or injury. During the pandemic, the organization launched the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for restaurant employees in Beverly, Lynn, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem, and/or Swampscott whose work is currently negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Behind You will begin refocusing their efforts to provide financial assistance to food service workers who are unable to work due to illness or injury for an extended period of time. While they will be officially closing the COVID-19 Emergency Fund on the one year anniversary of its launch on March 16, 2021. You can still donate to their general fund that goes to support food service employees.
World Central Kitchen
World Central Kitchen (WCK) launched their #ChefsforAmerica program early on, which is providing fresh meals to those communities most in need of support at this time, including children and their families, as well as seniors who cannot leave their homes to access food for meals. WCK is now active in dozens of cities providing nearly 250,000 fresh meals every day, with the help of area restaurants, providing not only meals for those in need, but also a way for those in the restaurant industry and delivery drivers to earn a living during these uncertain times. For more information on how to apply as a restaurant, for assistance or to donate, please visit their website.
Regarding Her Food
Nine female restaurateurs in Los Angeles formed Regarding Her in November 2020 as a response to the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the restaurant industry. Regarding Her Food, a 501(c)(3) non-profit devoted to the advancement and empowerment of women restaurateurs. They provide support through grants for women-owned culinary businesses, industry-focused resources, virtual and physical events that celebrate, connect and promote women in food and beverage.
They strive to create opportunities for connection and success by way of programs that support, unite, and uplift female food and beverage entrepreneurs in Los Angeles and beyond. To make a donation, visit the donation section of their website.
Michael Lennox, founder and CEO of Electric Hospitality in Atlanta, began ATLFAMILYMEAL is in March 2020 after the pandemic forced his restaurants to close. The non-profit combats food insecurity and joblessness in Atlanta's hospitality industry in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
They built a tech-enabled platform to organize the prep and delivery of thousands of weekly meals from local restaurants to the homes of jobless hospitality workers experiencing food insecurity across metro Atlanta. Since launching, they have delivered more than 205,000 meals to unemployed hospitality workers from over 200 metro Atlanta restaurants, breweries, and hospitality businesses. ATLFAMILYMEAL has also raised over $2.25 million total through fundraising, virtual events, and donations.
Summerlong Supper Club
Summerlong Supper Club is a restaurant subscription service that aims to preserve restaurants struggling during the pandemic. Founded by Vinay Gupta (a neuroscientist, brand consultant, and owner of Brooklyn-based Summerlong Wine Company) and Lynnette Marrero and Ila Byrne, SSC functions almost as a patron-backed investors for restaurants needing funds imminently. A subscriber pays $800 ($960 for delivery) for a weekly, 3-course dinner from one of 16 participating independent restaurants.
The program is now expanding to Washington D.C. So far, they have raised over $1.2 million for participating NYC restaurants.
Food Rescue US
Food Rescue US has partnered with restaurants and their staff on their Community Kitchen Program. It is staffed by food service personnel who prepare meals that are then distributed by our volunteers to those that are food insecure. These kitchens allow us to support restaurants and their staff — while also providing free meals for any person in need. They have provided more than 100,000 meals to those experiencing food insecurity.
“At a time when so many feel isolated, our community kitchens have created a sense of community, connecting restaurant staff, volunteers, and individuals in need,” says CEO Carol Shattuck.
Founded by chefs Daniel Boulud, Jérôme Bocuse, and Thomas Keller, Ment'or is a non-profit organization that supports struggling hospitality workers, specifically through their Giving Fund. Proceeds from the Giving Fund are allocated to charities that support the culinary workforce or directly to restaurant businesses, with the requirement that they distribute 100% of these funds directly to their displaced employees who demonstrate financial need.
Servers Workers Coalition
Servers Workers Coalition feeds the hospitality workers that feed us. The non-profit provides grocery stipends of $50 a week to any out of work service industry workers due to COVID-19. If the worker is in quarantine or for any other reason cannot go out to buy groceries, they will deliver.
In addition to grocery stipends, SWC coordinates wellness check ins and other mental health services remotely. They have supported over 1,200 New York City service workers. Moving forward, SWC will be prioritizing workers who are undocumented, are refugees, don't have bank accounts, have fallen ill, or have been unable to access unemployment benefits.
Slapfish Restaurant Group & 86 Restaurant Struggle
Owners Andrew and Lauren Gruel of CA-based Slapfish Restaurant Group started a GoFundMe for their in-progress 501c3 86 Restaurant Struggle. Their efforts have already raised $365,000 for restaurant workers across the country who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Nearly all of the funds have been given away to individuals as well as restaurants in the Los Angeles area who may have otherwise closed their doors.
Southern California residents can visit the flagship Slapfish location in Huntington Beach, where the Community Burger is free with a donation. Note: Slapfish is not using any of the funds for itself or its own employees.
Austin Shift Meal
Shift meals can be an integral part of many hospitality workers' diets — some may rely on it as a part of how they feed themselves on a daily or weekly basis. Mandi Nelson founded Austin Shift Meal about a year ago to make sure Central Texas furloughed and out-of-work hospitality and restaurant workers – who depend on their workplace shift meals – don’t go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Austin Shift meal has hosted more than 37 events and given away more than 12,500 meals from over 90 restaurants.
In November of 2020, Austin Shift Meal joined forces with Good Works Austin to continue providing weekly meals, snacks and beverages. Good Works Austin is a group of local restaurants that advocates for a healthy workplace, community and employees. They require restaurants to pay employees a minimum $15 an hour.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Queens Together has raised over $225,000 via individual donations (mainly through social media) for restaurants, restaurant workers, and those facing food insecurity through chef-prepared meals in Queens, New York City. They have prepared or facilitated over 50,000 meals from local restaurants to neighbors facing food and economic insecurity
“COVID19 crisis we are building a bridge that connects local restaurants with food relief efforts in their communities. The dollars we raise allow restaurants to make real money, pay their workers, fuel the local economy and most importantly do what restaurants do best: care for others with food,” says founder Jonathan Forgash.
ChowNow and CASHDROP
In response to the predatory practices and pricing of third-party delivery apps, several companies have offered restaurants services that support them during these difficult times. ChowNow is an online ordering platform that does not charge restaurants commissions or fees. Rather, they operate on a fair and flat monthly subscription for usage of their software. 100% of the diner order proceeds go to the restaurants. Last year, Chow saved their 20,000 restaurant partners $500 million in commissions that would have otherwise been taken in by delivery apps.
CASHDROP, while not specific to just the restaurant industry, allows businesses to create an online storefront from their phone in less than 15 minutes. Businesses like restaurants never pay commissions or monthly fees. The service provides contactless sales of food, retail goods, services or ticketed events. Founder Ruben Flores-Martinez says:
"CASHDROP is looking to democratize and simplify digital commerce," says Flores-Martinez. "Our app is 100% free to use for merchants. The idea that a business has to give away 30% of their revenue per order is not sustainable anymore. By eliminating predatory fees, maximizing online orders, and providing a seamless buying experience, we help create sustainability for businesses using CASHDROP."