Top Ten Ways To Help Restaurants & Workers Survive the COVID Crisis

UPDATED April 8, 2021

Even while restaurants got $28bil in relief aid and are sizing back up their seating capacity – those that made it through to this day, that is – the people in the industry and many businesses are still struggling. A lot. To say this past year hasn’t been easy is the understatement of the century. Covid has taken an unbelievable toll on people’s mental health as well, and we’re reminded of this by the rise in depression and suicide. Please, do whatever you can, most especially be supportive of the individuals who you know may be feeling isolated and hopeless.

Be Supportive Emotionally
After a long and tough year, many people are really feeling dragged down emotionally. So keep in close touch with those you know who have lost their jobs, had to close their businesses, cancel events, or have their hours cut back. People aren’t just struggling financially right now, they’re struggling emotionally, maybe even with substance abuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts, and they really need their friends.

Often times, people pull back or drop off the radar when they’re down, so keep reaching out and following up. Listen, talk, be supportive, let them vent, help them find emotional support resources, and be a vital virtual shoulder for them to lean on in this time of extraordinary need. Many times, just knowing there are people who care how you’re doing can make the difference between making it through the day or spiraling downward. Don’t be afraid to be a real friend.

Help A Friend or A Restaurant Financially
Not everyone is in a position right now to do this, but if you are, and if you have a friend who lost their job in hospitality or has had their hours cut dramatically and is suffering a financial setback, help them with a gift or a loan. The same goes if you know a restaurant owner and you could make an investment or a loan.

People in need might not want to ask for financial help from friends even if they really could use the help, so you can step up and offer a loan or even give a monetary gift. Recipients and givers of monetary gifts typically don’t have to pay taxes on the amount, but if the gift is over $15,000 then the giver needs to at least report it to the IRS. Find out more here.

If you’re able, let your friend know the loan is long-term and there’s no rush to pay it back. Be sure to sign a straightforward loan agreement (just Google “template personal loan agreement between friends” and you’ll find lots of options). You can often write an unpaid personal loan off your taxes if it should come to that, but you need a written agreement to do so.

Buy Necessities for A Friend
If you can afford it, and would prefer not to give a cash gift or make a loan, you can always send someone gifts of things they need to survive. Just about anything you yourself need in your regular shopping can be purchased online and sent to a friend in need, or bought when you shop for yourself and dropped off on their doorstep. For example, if your friend(s) have a small child, think of how expensive things like diapers are, and you could even set up a regular delivery for a few months. Even pet food is expensive when you don’t have a paycheck, and people definitely don’t want to give up their beloved pets, especially because they truly offer moral support!

Hire An Unemployed Hospitality Worker
If you’re lucky enough to be in a business that’s actually hiring, why not hire someone from the hospitality industry who is currently unemployed! People in hospitality have a strong work ethic, they aren’t afraid of long hours or hard work, they work well in teams, they’re fast on their feet, can take the heat, they’re good at putting out fires (sometimes literally), and they’re usually up for trying most anything! Even if it’s temp work or a gig, if you need help and know an unemployed hospitality worker, reach out to them!

Order Take-Out & Delivery & TIP EXTRA!
If some of your favorite spots are still open for take-out and / or delivery, and you can afford it yourself, then by all means get your grub to go as much as possible! And don’t forget to tip extra, whatever you can afford, because tipped workers get really shitty hourly wages so they need all the tips they can get. If possible, order directly from the restaurant by calling or using their own website, this way a chunk of their profit doesn’t go to some third-party delivery company, plus you won’t pay any extra fees!

Buy Restaurant Gift Certificates And / Or Dining Bonds
Some individual restaurants are now selling gift certificates and there’s also a Dining Bond Initiative. Buying gift certificates from individual restaurants as well as buying Dining Bonds puts money directly into the hands of restaurants who are struggling to survive, and many are offering discounts so you’ll get your favorite food at less than the regular price. So buy some bonds and gift certificates for yourself, and for your friends and family!

Donate to A Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
Check out CulEpi’s List of Financial Resources to make a donation to national / local relief funds, and visit GoFundMe to search for the restaurants that you love but which are now temporarily (hopefully!) closed and have started an Employee Relief Fund. On GoFundMe you can search for individual restaurants or cities or even very localized neighborhood Restaurant Relief Funds, and donate what you can. Then pester all your friends and contacts to get them to donate as well! Every bit helps!

Take Initiative
If your favorite restaurants don’t have a GoFundMe or other means of raising funds, (and they’re not open for takeout and delivery) you can contact them directly and ask them how you can help. Send an email from their website telling them how much you miss their hospitality and their food and see if they’re going to be raising any funds to get themselves and their teams through this tough time. Ask them if they can sell gift certificates or offer Dining Bonds. You can even offer to set up a GoFundMe Employee Relief Fund on their behalf.

Donate to A Charity – Restaurant Partnership
Support charities that are currently partnering with and paying restaurant workers to cook meals for hospital workers, first-responders, and people who are going hungry. Contact the charity and tell them you want to donate directly to restaurant relief efforts that are employing restaurant staff to prepare and distribute meals.

Three examples are #ChefsForAmerica by World Central Kitchen, a national 501(c)(3) charity founded by José Andrés,  ReThink in NYC that has partnered with Eleven Madison Park and given grants to other NYC restaurants, and Meals for Mill / Restaurant Rescue in Burlingame & Peninsula, California. (Please email us if you know of more organizations like this so we can add them to our List of Financial Resources!)

Speak Up for The RESTAURANTS Act of 2020
The RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, which would have establish a $120 billion relief fund for independent restaurants, did not get passed this week in the new relief package. BUT, you can still keep hounding your Reps! Call the US Capitol Switchboard to be connected to your representative in Congress / The Senate at (202) 224-3121. Tell your Reps on the Hill that you support the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020, and they should too when the next aid package comes up in 2021!

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