Restaurant News from the James Beard Foundation (JBF) and More

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Everything has changed for the food and restaurant industry in just a few weeks.

I jumped in on a webinar with the James Beard Foundation to glean information on how local restaurants can adapt, and how their patrons can help them survive. Here is what I took away:

JBF is actively stepping up to support the restaurant industry, which is uniquely vulnerable. Their website is becoming a clearinghouse for ideas and support for restaurants large and small.

Ideas and news for local restaurant owners

In Chicago, restaurant owners are coordinating their messages to the public and, more importantly, to city and state governments in asking for help. The hope is that one united message will reduce the cacophony legislators are hearing.

Every state and municipality is different. Chicago is unique with their unified voice. Advice is to work together under one message.

The national emergency declaration has freed up funds nationally and locally to help support businesses through the crisis period. What the state legislature does is dependent on what needs it sees. The industry employs 15% of the workforce and pumps a billion dollars into the economy.

There are currently three financial stimulus bills on the floor of the US Senate, but the earliest response will be next week as the House is not in session. Expanding unemployment insurance could potentially help restaurant employees.

Restaurant closings not only affect owners, employees and their patrons, but also suppliers such as farmers and fishermen. Local agencies that depend on food donations may receive less assistance.

Katherine Miller of JBF says they have trained advocates all over the country to make sure the industry is not left out of any economic stimulus bills.

Other efforts around the nation can be used on a local level.

Rethink Food in New York City is selecting 30 restaurants to change their model of service from sit-down to a distribution center, offering them $40,000 to stay up and running.

Here you can read stories from restaurant professionals on how the last few days have been going for them.

Ways to support local restaurants 

Gift cards: Consider buying a gift card (or cards). Doing so potentially gives a restaurant immediate income, and the gift certificate can be redeemed at a later date. Many are offering discounts on cards purchased now.

Delivery: Consider ordering delivery. It’s not risk-free, and most delivery companies take a cut of the cost of the meal, but it’s a way to patronize your favorite restaurant without leaving your house. Some local restaurants are offering their own delivery services, rather than rely on a third party.

Here at New Hampshire Magazine, we’ve been busy compiling a growing list of New Hampshire restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside pickup options. You can see the list here.

Stock up strategically: Fill your refrigerator and pantry with supplies from small businesses or restaurant-markets, in addition to grocery stores.

OpenTable’s chief operating officer shared some suggestions with their email list for helping restaurants during this time: tip well, rebook for a future date, order delivery and more.

What other cities are doing

NYC: The city will offer businesses with fewer than 100 employees interest-free loans of up to $75,000, if they can demonstrate sales decreases of 25% or more.

Seattle: Amazon is establishing a $5 million fund to help Seattle small businesses — like bars, restaurants and food trucks — offset the sales lost from the company’s work-from-home decree and help pay employees.

San Francisco: The city will allow qualifying small businesses to defer payment to the tax collector.

José Andrés is converting his DC and New York City restaurants into community kitchens.

Other initiatives:

Dining Bond Initiative 

Like government-issued war bonds, the Dining Bond Initiative seeks to bring in immediate cash in exchange for future restaurant purchases. Diners can buy gift certificates sold at a 25% discount ($100 worth of food for a $75 bond) to be redeemed in the restaurant within the next month or two, depending on how individual restaurants decide to honor the bonds. The program is open to all restaurants. Restaurants can sign up at

USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program 

The United States Bartenders Guild is helping bartenders affected by the virus through its emergency assistance program. The guild is getting help from Jameson Irish Whiskey, which has pledged $500,000 toward the effort.

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation 

The RWCF, which works across a number of labor issues in the restaurant industry, launched the RWCF COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. The fund collects donations to provide relief to individual workers affected by the coronavirus and to create zero-interest loans to businesses.

Grubhub Community Relief Fund 

Grubhub announced the Grubhub Community Relief Fund, routing funds from its preexisting Donate the Change program to charitable organizations supporting delivery workers and restaurants. The company is working with officials in each city to identify the best uses for the money. Grubhub is also temporarily suspending $100 million in commissions it usually charges restaurants.

Food Rescue US 

An app-based organization that takes leftover food that would otherwise be thrown out from restaurants and events to shelters. Many events are being cancelled right now with much perishable food being thrown out — we can change that.

Science Retail: Free remote tech support for restaurants, including help to set up online ordering, gift cards/e-giftcards, employee fundraisers, or understanding where to cut their IT costs during closures.

Quote found on World Central Kitchen’s website: “The future of the nations will depend on how they feed themselves.”— Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1826

Have a safe day!

Other news: 

Starbucks, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ and others have all announced they will be suspending in-store seating, converting all company-owned stores to carryout, drive-thru and delivery hubs only.

The United Way of Nashua is working with the service provider industry to ensure that kids who rely on the school lunch program will continue to receive food. An overnight fundraiser brought in $25,000 to support service providers with any unforeseen costs so they can continue to provide essential service. And they are recruiting volunteers to help with meal pickups at the various schools.  More details to give or to get help are available here.



Categories: Food & Drink