There’s lots of sober news surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on individuals, communities and even businesses. Few businesses have taken as direct a hit from COVID-19 as the foodservice industry.
Some restaurants have closed just their dining rooms, others have temporarily closed their entire operations and others just may be plain gone forever.
What I find most amazing, though, is that during all these dark clouds of despair, little rays of light continue to shine through as some members of the foodservice industry show their true colors.
Earlier this week, for example, celebrity chef Rick Bayless unveiled a new initiative with US Foods. The program pays 15 laid-off restaurant workers to twice a week sort through the groceries that Bayless’s Frontera Restaurants group purchases from US Foods. Those workers organize the groceries into boxes that are subsequently distributed to restaurants across Chicago—and then to each restaurant’s laid-off employees. According to Bayless, 800 of these boxes will be made each week.
And just last week we saw a a unique but short partnership between Chicago chefs Edward Lee, of the LEE Initiative and Paul Kahan, founder of multiconcept operator One Off Hospitality. The two turned Kahan’s Big Star restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood into a headquarters site that supported restaurant workers relief. The One Off Hospitality team prepared and packed to-go dinners and grocery bags and made the food available to recently unemployed restaurant workers who needed food and supplies. The popularity of the program created some safety concerns, though, forcing the two organizations to shut down this initiative the weekend of March 28.
“The spread of COVID-19 has been disastrous for the restaurant community and so many of the hard-working employees who are now unable to collect a paycheck,” said Kahan.
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Amid word that it might have to close as many as 7,000 restaurants globally, YUM! Brands and its YUM! Foundation is providing financial support to more than 20 food banks around the world.
In the U.S., YUM! Brands’ KFC business unit donated $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack. The money will go to feed 100,000 children affected by mandatory school closures across the U.S. KFC is also delivering buckets of chicken to healthcare workers and hospitals in its hometown.
KFC’s sister concept, Pizza Hut, is providing pizzas to frontline healthcare workers and essential personnel. And in a safety-conscious move, Pizza Hut has transitioned to a contactless delivery model.
Taco Bell is deploying its Taco Truck to feed frontline healthcare workers and other essential personnel and donating to local food banks.
Finally, The Habit Burger Grill, the newest concept in the YUM! family, is providing free meals to the medical community, first responders and volunteers through its food trucks and the Second Harvest Food Bank.
These are but two of the undoubtedly countless acts of kindness taking place out in the industry today. If you come across more examples like this, please share them with me and, in turn, I will share them with the readers of FE&S.