Restaurants across the country have been forced to close their doors in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, either by choice or as a result of state or municipal orders to enforce social distancing. So now, many are in trouble. Diners can help in a number of ways — by ordering delivery or buying gift cards, for example. But some companies, nonprofits, and grassroots initiatives are allowing individuals to make a direct financial contribution to the restaurants and bars that make their cities a better place to live — as well as the workers behind those establishments — during this difficult time.
Below is a list of funds to which diners can donate and restaurants or their staff can find financial help. While a number of restaurants have launched independent drives to raise money from their own loyal customers, the campaigns below are working to distribute larger funds across many restaurants. The list will be updated as new information becomes available.
Help for Restaurants
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 percent 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.
The JBF Food and Beverage Relief Fund is gathering donations from everyday diners as well as corporate donors to distribute micro-grants to independent businesses.
Houston chef Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Foundation is accepting donations from well-wishers and applications for funds from restaurants and restaurant employees.
Give Local and Local for Later are aggregating lists of restaurants promoting gift card sales while their doors are closed. Many restaurants are banking on gift cards to help defer costs until the pandemic subsides.
José Andrés and WCK have already been pitching in on coronavirus relief, feeding quarantined cruise ship passengers, but the organization’s chefs need financial help to continue preparing meals for those in need during the crisis.
Help for Restaurant and Delivery Workers
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.
The OFW campaign, a nonprofit advocating against sub-minimum-wage laws for tipped restaurant workers, launched the OFW Emergency Fund. The target $213,000 (based on the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13/hour) will provide immediate cash assistance to restaurant employees, delivery workers, and other tipped workers in the food industry. Demand from restaurants on OFW is already surging. Sally Kohn, a representative for OFW, tells Eater, “We’ve received about six more times the number of requests as we’ve received donations. The crisis is huge.”
Unite Here, a labor union representing groups in the U.S. and Canada, is collecting funds to help its 300,000 members with things like rent, groceries, health insurance, and lost wages. The union represents other industries beyond food service, including hotels, airports, and casinos, but you can select a specific local group if you prefer to target your money to particular restaurant industry workers.
The nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United has set a target of $500,000 for its emergency relief fund, which seeks to help documented and undocumented restaurant workers who lose their jobs during the pandemic.
ARAR usually offers scholarships and grants to support underrepresented groups in the hospitality industry, and the nonprofit is currently collecting funds for all types of workers affected by COVID-19. The group is distributing $500 grants to those who have lost jobs or hours because of the pandemic.
Spill The Dish offers a database of financial aid that combines donor funds with resources from government agencies and non-profits. It allows users to search by state, and breaks down results for restaurant workers, business owners, and individual donors. Users can also add new donation programs to the database.
Hospitality job search platform Seasoned began tipping workers $100 each for sharing their stories about how COVID-19 has affected them. The company has expanded their fundraising goal to $1,000,000 to continue paying workers and is looking to partner with other relief funds to help distribute money.
Help for Bars and Bartenders
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. SipScience, an analytics company focused on the hospitality industry, has also launched a GoFundMe to raise $100,000 for the USBG National Charity Foundation.
In addition to national organizations collecting donations, a number of smaller groups are helping collect money for restaurants and workers in cities and regions across the U.S. Find out more about donating locally in these areas:
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- New York
- St. Louis
- Twin Cities
- Salt Lake City