Stories of Selflessness from the Restaurant Industry During COVID-19

Whether it’s the 24-hour cable news or the morning newspaper, or your favorite online report, COVID-19 seems to be the only thing going on, and the restaurant industry has been especially hard hit. Doors are closed. Workers are laid off. And even as some states begin to reopen their economies, mitigation measures mandate fewer people in the dining room, and the spectre of a second wave of infections casts a shadow over it all.

So, what does the restaurant industry do in response? Do they lock themselves in their dark, empty dining rooms with a bottle of wine and feel sorry for themselves? Do they shake their fists at the sky and scream about the unfairness of it all? Do they dig a bunker, squint at the competition, and declare, “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!”?

No. That’s not how restaurant people roll.

We’ve already talked here about the many ways in which restaurants across the country have innovated and adapted to stay in business under impossible circumstances, but that’s only part of the story. Yes, times are hard, and not everyone will come out of this unscathed; but if you know where to look, there is good news to be found—stories of people rising above adversity to help others—and it’s these stories that shine a light on the quality of those who spend their lives serving others.

Pizza to the rescue

As restrictions, bans, and closings began to spread across the country, The District in Providence, RI and Tony and Alba’s in San Jose, CA had similar ideas. Unwilling to just lock their doors and let their stock go to waste, they got to work making as many pizzas as they could and delivering them to a local hospital (in The District’s case) and to local elderly citizens (Tony and Alba’s).

It’s an outpouring of generosity that took root in all parts of the country when restaurants everywhere decided to donate food to essential and displaced workers as well as non-profit organizations and the needy in their communities. None of these restaurant owners know what the future holds for them, but they know that a community is stronger when it works together in a time of crisis.

In addition to the pizza provided in Providence and San Jose, countless other restaurants have donated food to food banks, prepared sack lunches for those in need, fed medical workers, first responders and more. The true extent of the restaurant industry’s generosity in this crisis may never be known.

Getting into the spirit

As the news cycles began to blend one into the next and more COVID cases began to appear nationwide, supplies of hand sanitizer flew from the shelves until even the warehouses’ cupboards were bare.

Recognizing a need, brewers across the country repurposed their facilities to fill the void. In Hoodsport, WA, Cody Morris of Hardware Distilling found that he could make a gallon of hand sanitizer per keg of beer that would have otherwise gone to waste as restaurants were forced to close. He donated his final product to first responders, sent small, low-cost containers to local grocery stores, and filled up containers brought to his distillery by customers.

But he didn’t stop there. After perfecting the transformation process, Morris shared it with others in his social networks and served as a middleman to connect other distillers with restaurants and other establishments who were holding onto unused beer throughout Washington State.

Don’t forget the tip

But it’s not only the restaurateurs who are stepping up. Loyal restaurant patrons have also made their generosity known as it became clear that hard times were ahead for their favorite establishments.

In Myrtle Beach, SC, struggling new restaurant owner Jan Dobr of the Beachfront Kitchen and Bar was struggling to survive the COVID shutdown with only takeout orders when an anonymous customer walked away with his $19 order leaving a $1000 tip. “Put it to good use,” said the customer when Dobr contacted him to confirm the amount.

At Irma’s Southwest in Houston, a couple who also wanted to remain anonymous left behind a $9400 tip on a $90.12 check along with the note, “hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks.” The restaurant was one day away from COVID lockdown. It was an unexpected bit of kindness that helped soften the blow a bit for the entire kitchen and service staff, who shared the funds equally.

Finally, in Naples, FL, a restaurant in the Skillets chain of eateries, also one day away from forced COVID shutdown, received a $10,000 tip from an unidentified diner. Shared equally by the restaurant’s 20-member staff, the tip was certainly the most generous any of them have seen, but it’s not the only generosity to be found. Chain owner Ross Edlund says that the crew he’s been able to keep employed has received a significant number of large tips, as restaurants and diners nationwide work together to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

OneDine is also on a mission to help #SaveOurRestaurants with our contactless Parking Lot Order & Pay system, which we’re offering to restaurants at absolutely no charge during the current gathering restrictions (normal credit card processing fees still apply). We’re working nights and weekends to get as many restaurants onboarded as possible. If we can help you during this challenging time, get in touch today!