Nobody envies a hospital worker in a pandemic, especially when — like right now — doctors and nurses are facing a shortage of hospital beds and COVID-19 tests, and no vaccine. So restaurants and good samaritans alike are banding together to offer one bit of solace: a good meal.
Some restaurants, like Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley, are offering free meals to health care workers who visit the deli. Others are making deliveries. Earlier this week, New York-staple Roberta’s pizza posted a video on Instagram showing a massive delivery of pizza and salad to Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Though you couldn’t quite see the reactions behind the face masks, everyone seemed thrilled. “It was a privilege to be able to offer some form of comfort to those who have been working literally nonstop to help keep this pandemic at bay,” Carlo Mirarchi, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Roberta’s and Blanca, told Eater. Roberta’s, which has been offering pizza and pasta kits and some grocery provisions for pick up in order to keep cash flowing, also says it’s working on getting some new products together to easily deliver to hospitals.
In Seattle, Matador has been delivering meals to the staff at Swedish Medical Center in Ballard. “We’re keeping people employed and refreshing all of our stores,” owner Zak Melang told Crosscut, noting that donations to the hospital allow him to use food that otherwise would have gone to waste. He and his wife are also hoping to train other restaurateurs in the city on how to package meals for hospitals, so more businesses can use their food and offer their employees more hours.
“When we realized it was in the best interest of public health for restaurants & bars to close, we knew we couldn’t replace those sales,” says Yasuaki Saito, a partner at the London Plane in Seattle. “My business partner Katherine Anderson was talking to her longtime friend Emily who is a nurse & mentioned that a small gesture during stressful times often made all the difference while serving the community.”
The London Plane began boxing daily deliveries for the Montlake and Northgate locations of UW hospitals. At first, Saito says it was a quick way to use up food and give staff some more hours. But now, it may be its own revenue stream. “Making 1,600 meals per day allows us to continue purchasing from vendors, maintains hours for some of our staff, gives hours to others in the industry who have been laid off, and collaborate with partners on a project of goodwill to uplift our whole community.” The London Plane has also received donations of delivery truck usage and other tools from the community.
Individuals have also found donations to be a way to support both hospital workers and the reeling restaurant industry. Marissa Berg recently organized a massive delivery of Russ & Daughters for the ER staff at a hospital in New York, where she is friends with one of the doctors. Berg emailed friends asking them to chip in for an order and was overwhelmed. “We currently have raised over $2,000, and we will be sending to her and her staff multiple orders from multiple restaurants in order to support both sectors,” she said. “Our next order is being delivered on Friday and will be coming from Breads Bakery.”
Sauce Pizzeria in New York has added a “Cheese Pie for Hospital Donation” option to its online ordering. So far Sauce says it’s been “donating at least 20 pies a day...and are matching the number of pies for each order made.” Other groups, like the “Feed a Doc” project, organize volunteers willing to deliver warm food to doctors. Roberta’s says you can organize an order for a local hospital by contacting them.
Restaurants and bars may not count as “essential” services in the face of a shelter-in-place order, but a fancy pizza, or a warm, well-made sandwich can at least show overworked hospital workers that they are appreciated. “We get immediate feedback when we drop the meals off at the hospitals,” said Saito. “It reminds us how essential service & hospitality are to everyone & the way it can brighten someone’s day.”