The novel coronavirus has hit many people across America and the world hard. At Williams Sonoma, our hearts go out to all who are sick, struggling, or otherwise hurting during a very tough time.
Among those dramatically affected by COVID-19 are restaurants and their employees. Just a few weeks ago, restaurants across the United States employed over 11 million people and indirectly employed hundreds of millions of workers throughout the food supply and delivery chain – from farmers, fishermen, restaurant supplies, and much more, who depend on the revenue of restaurants to stay in business.
Millions of people have since been laid off in the restaurant industry as it struggles to find ways to cope with the crisis. We reached out to a few of the most innovative, groundbreaking chefs and restaurateurs across the country and asked how they are finding ways to support their own community—customers, waiters, bartenders, dishwashers, suppliers and neighbors— that have been so affected during these unprecedented times.
1. Offering Industry Support
Chef Edouardo Jordan of Junebaby, Salare and Lucinda Grain Bar in Seattle has turned the latter into a relief center for the hospitality industry, part of Chef Edward Lee’s Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Dedicated to providing assistance to any restaurant worker who has been laid off or has had a significant reduction in hours and/or pay, Jordan’s restaurants—like others involved in the program—pack hundreds of to-go meals for those affected. He also involves his local community in restaurant support, providing gift cards as a way for customers to help restaurants keep themselves afloat. Jordan encourages customers, “Reinvest into your local businesses, support their takeout, purchase gift cards for future use, order their merchandise and speak out to your local government officials about how restaurants need their support.”
2. Organizing Support for Staff
Chefs are also looking online to organize means of support for staff and suppliers. Chef Dominique Crenn, of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, recently set up a GoFundMe to benefit restaurant suppliers and employees. Crenn says, “We need [our customers] to stand up for us, not just we chefs, but the amazing staff, farmers, fishermen… so many people are being affected right now.”
Demi Chef Gavin Kaysen, in Minneapolis, has also started a fund for his staffers. As he says, “Our restaurants provide a sense of home, comfort, and belonging because they have heart. Our heart is our people.”
3. Advocating for Their Industry
Chef Kwame Onwuachi of Washington D.C. restaurant Kith/ Kin has been actively working with the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group of industry leaders he has called “the avengers of chefs” to get some government relief for independent restaurants. He says, “The restaurant industry will be in trouble if we don’t speak up in the present for its future. … Without help, thousands of independent restaurants will likely be forced to close their doors forever.” He guides customers and local community members interested in supporting their local restaurants to saverestaurants.co for ways in which they can help.
4. Serving Those in Need
At San Francisco’s Che Fico, Chef David Nayfeld launched Che Fico Family Meal Fund—a relief organization based largely on donations from local tech entrepreneurs—to provide meals for local families in need and keep restaurant employees working in the process. The program debuted on March 21 by providing forty $50 meals per family and has since expanded to cover more than 200 meals each evening. Nayfeld says, “People are in need, and [other] people are able to give. It’s the community helping the community by jumping in.”
5. Offering Takeout and Delivery
Among the saving graces in the restaurant industry right now is takeout. Many restaurants across America are careful to practice good social distancing measures and using heightened hygiene in an effort to set up safe options for take-out and, when possible, meal delivery. Joshua McFadden, chef at Ava Gene’s in Oregon, adds, “If you can safely pick up takeout food from one of your favorite restaurants, that’s a great way to support them.”
On a sunny note, he suggests that customers who want to help, “Buy a gift card for better days. Just imagine how fun it’s going to be when we can all dine together again.”