As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, it sent many of us into shelter-at-home mode, separated from our workplaces. Here at Chrane, our immediate focus was the safety of our team. That focus quickly shifted to the sustainability of our local restaurants, bars, breweries and the many small (and large) businesses in foodservice.

Christopher EastChristopher East, Principal, Chrane Foodservice Solutions LLC, Irving, TexasOur industry was tested by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the Great Recession that began at the end of 2007, but we have never seen anything pack a punch quite like COVID-19. Now more than ever is the time for the foodservice community to come together to do our best and feed our nation.

Inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Chrane developed the #ChraneCommunityChallenge2020 to help curb the impact this shocking virus is having on the foodservice industry. Each of the 20 employees at Chrane received $200 to spend at local restaurants that were quickly transitioning to takeout- and delivery-only storefronts. Taking money previously earmarked for expenses such as work-related travel and entertaining customers, we hoped this modest investment would provide financial optimism to help keep local operators open — and keep our team members and their families well fed.

Knowing the generous nature of the hospitality industry, it wasn’t enough to simply tackle this in Texas and Oklahoma. We wanted to encourage other civic-minded businesses to do the same. We targeted thoughtful, savvy businesses that had strong connections to their communities. The first five companies we nominated for the challenge were Winston Foodservice, The Hansen Group, Cambro Manufacturing, Mission Restaurant Supply and Eaton Marketing.

Other companies learned about our campaign via social media and jumped on board without being challenged, including Melissa Skinner at Greenwald Sales and Chris Jeens over at W.D. College. More quickly followed suit, including Zink Foodservice, BSI/Foodservice Holdings, Filter Corp., Waring Commercial and TableCraft.

Meredith MullikenMeredith Mulliken, Marketing Coordinator, Chrane Foodservice Solutions LLC, Irving, TexasAnd now, just as ice buckets chilled many while raising millions, we hope our industry, our challenge — along with several other fantastic social initiatives — aids local restaurants by giving them the resources to keep those fires burning, employees earning a paycheck and the reward of feeding our cabin-fevered peers. We all miss the social side of eating and drinking out, but at least the #ChraneCommunityChallenge2020 gives us the pleasure of enjoying our respective cities’ great culinary treats.

No matter how each business got involved or tackled the challenge to support the needs of their team and community, what’s so exciting is that we all share the same passion for this industry and support for one another. The challenge embodies our industry and what it’s all about: the people and the relationships we build.

COVID-19 is an invisible adversary that has left many people cautious about restaurant food. This is our chance to lead the way by showing our neighbors that our industry has exceptional safety standards and everyone is welcome — curbside, of course! Every person has the fortitude to send a positive message and lead by example.