As the restaurant industry moves into week two of coronavirus impact, diners are starting to glimpse a world of precarity that has always existed under the surface of the restaurant industry. Sandwich Hag posted that it would have no baguettes, as its provider, family-owned Quoc Bao Bakery in Garland has closed for now. The stress that restaurateurs have always navigated is pouring out of the kitchen, becoming visible in tangible ways.
Over a week ago, Will Salisbury of the local nonprofit Heard That Foundation, which has staunchly advocated for issues like paid sick leave and been a force for aid and support in the restaurant community, predicted, even as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance conversation was being resurrected, that the real elephant in the room was unemployment. At that time, before the ban on in-room dining, before the order to shelter-in-place, Salisbury was gesturing about a fire still in the distance. The flames have reached us. Things are changing daily, the industry is pivoting swiftly, and awareness is unfolding, too. People are hungry to help and want to know how.
“We are very much a vulnerable industry,” Salisbury said even before any of this got bad.
“[Diners] don’t realize that essentially their meal is being subsidized by the labor of the people in that restaurant,” he says. “That’s the whole art of running a restaurant. They’re not supposed to be aware. They’re just supposed to experience the curated thing you’ve created.” It’s all about hiding the machinery behind the magic. “I want people to start to see.”
I think people are starting to see.
Here is a list (not exhaustive, but indicative), of what you can do right now.
Donate to a nonprofit. Heard That Foundation is the scrappy nonprofit organization behind the Staff Meal program that launched on Monday, with furloughed, laid-off, or otherwise volunteer industry workers cooking and providing free meals daily to those in need who have lost jobs in the service industry. Cash and food donations needed. Separately, their Double-Impact Initiative, in coordination with Profound Farms, will accept cash donations to use toward purchasing ingredients from local farmers to use in the staff meals (hence the double reach: farmers and industry workers). And a new Steps of Service grant will provide emergency dollars for uninsured or underinsured hospitality workers in health crisis currently facing out-of-pocket expenses. The program can also cover living expenses, with funds applied directly to bills.
The newly established Furlough Kitchen, an off-shoot of the Front Burner Group, picks up the same staff meal model, serving one free meal a day to a former hospitality worker no matter who their previous employer was. The curbside kitchen in East Dallas has individually packaged meals that can be picked up Monday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. (Heard That’s hours are 5–9 p.m.). Furlough Kitchen is ready to serve upwards of 1,000 meals per day.
Order or buy gift cards from businesses that provide take-out or curb-side delivery. Here is our exhaustive running list. Make every day a Great American Takeout Day.
Support businesses that are supporting other small businesses. Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters used its Cliffmade Pantry program to support a struggling flower grower. Others are going after similar passion projects.
Keep buying bread and other locally made goods from folks (see Kuluntu Bakery and La Casita Bakeshop) who are often offering free loaves to those in need.
Reach out to support initiatives and organizations that support restaurant industry workers. The TX Restaurant Relief Fund (local), the James Beard Foundation Relief Fund (national), CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees (national), Restaurant Workers Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund (national), and the United States Bartenders’ Guild COVID-19 Relief Campaign (national) are places to start. Also check out local GoFundMe campaigns. (Note: The Senate passed and the House is set to vote later this week on a stimulus package that may provide relief. Stay abreast of these measures and how they might affect the hospitality industry, whose employees number more than 11 million nationally.)
Seek out businesses that are offering variations on pay-it-forward models. If you want direct involvement, Khao Noodle Shop is offering the option for diners to pay forward via “noods for all”; Full City Rooster has sold more than 160 “caffé sospesi,” wherein one can buy a drink for a future customer. All help industry workers in need.
Find and support businesses that are supporting local farmers by taking in their produce, and pickling and preserving. Petra and the Beast and Homewood have been “putting up” farmers’ burgeoning early-spring crops, so they don’t go to waste. Misti Norris has been using Texas Fungus mushrooms. Texas Fungus receives half of from the sales on certain menu and larder items—like a mushroom soup, a comforting congee, a salad with mushroom textures, or a jar of mushroom conserva on the larder menu. Other larder items (like pickled cauliflower and carrots) use local farmers’ goods. Homewood’s farmers box holds a Cartermere chicken and eggs with produce from Comeback Creek and Jubilant Farms, along with house pickles and preserves.
Follow both restaurants on Instagram (@petraandthebeast, @homewooddallas) and email [email protected] to order the limited-supply daily boxes.