The restaurant industry continues to struggle for survival even as cities and states across the country begin the process of opening their economies.
Dining rooms are reopening after more than two months of forced closures in response to COVID-19; but for every restaurant currently reopening, multiple others have had to close their doors for good. Despite these significant hardships, however, the COVID story of the restaurant industry has not simply been one of doom and gloom.
While the stories we hear most often fall squarely into the category of bad news, there are also a wealth of positive stories to be told about an industry coming together and restaurant owners going out of their way to help others in this time of uncertainty.
The groups and individuals in need of assistance and/or appreciation as the virus reshapes society include first responders and frontline/medical workers, children who previously depended on now closed schools for daily meals, and those who have found themselves unemployed as “non-essential” businesses close to ride out the pandemic. This last category, of course, includes millions of displaced restaurant workers.
Respect and Appreciation
Nationwide, big names in the restaurant industry have done what they can to help out those in need as well as put their lives at risk to keep essential services in place for the rest of us.
In April, healthcare workers and EMTs could go through the drive-thru of any White Castle restaurant and show their work ID to receive one free Combo Meal (1-6) or Breakfast Combo each day.
In addition, White Castle team members delivered Crave Cases of Sliders to hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the regions where White Castle has restaurants.
“In the midst of this pandemic, healthcare workers have put it all on the line to serve and take care of us. Now it’s our turn to serve them,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle. “Providing free Sliders and meals to healthcare workers is a way for us to show our appreciation for everything they’re doing right now.”
On Memorial Day, BurgerFi and the Marcum Foundation delivered meals to VA hospital medical staff and National Guard service members supporting the response to the COVID-19 crisis around the country as part of their larger effort throughout May to deliver up to 20,000 meals to healthcare heroes working at the heart of the pandemic in cities throughout the U.S.
“We have immense gratitude for our partnership with Marcum and the honor to feed our heroes on the frontlines who are protecting both our communities and veterans,” said Kevin Cooper of BurgerFi. “These efforts have brought the entire BurgerFi family incredible joy and we couldn’t be prouder of our teams around the country for their dedication in making it happen.”
These are just two examples of restaurant chains giving back even as they struggle to stay open during COVID. But it’s not just the big names that are making a difference.
The little guys
In Boston, Armenian-Lebanese restaurant Anoush’ella was forced to close two of its three locations. Rather than let the food and kitchens go to waste, however, they rolled up their sleeves to prepare and donate 60 free meals a day to people in the hospitality industry whose jobs were eliminated during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In Arlington, VA, Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar, & Eatery partnered with Real Food for Kids to serve nutritious, plant-based lunches every weekday to school-aged students, their families, and military households with no questions asked. In the first 10 days over 1,700 meals were distributed, but Guas didn’t stop there. He went on to recruit other area restaurants to join the cause, making free meals available at restaurants in both Annandale, Virginia, and Gaithersburg, Maryland. He plans to continue the effort until schools are finally able to reopen.
In New York City, 3-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park partnered with food rescue organization Rethink Food, donating its closed kitchen to Rethink’s efforts to provide free meals for New Yorkers in need. Restaurant staff remained employed, thanks to a donation from American Express, to prepare thousands of free daily meals for food-insecure people, homebound and elderly, and those on the front lines of delivering medical care.
When times become difficult, it’s easy to dwell on the negative. It’s important to remember, though, that one only needs to take a closer look to find good news in the midst of the bad.
Mr. Rogers said that in the midst of tragic events, it’s important to look for and notice the helpers. The restaurants above, along with thousands of others nationwide, have gone the extra mile to take their place alongside first responders, medical personnel, and other helpers to provide an important example of the good that still exists in the midst of this COVID-19 world.