While the small restaurant Salaryman pushes out to-go orders like so many others in the country right now, chef and owner Justin Holt has been strategizing how to help other people in the industry.
“I was having a conversation with a friend in a different state in a completely different industry, and we were trying to brainstorm some ideas on what we're lacking right now; what we need first and what we're lacking second, and how to essentially compete for the same thing everybody else wants right now,” Holt says.
That same thing being: “Order from us, save the restaurants,” of course.
While Holt continues to do that for Salaryman, he implores his customers to buy dinners for someone else in the industry. And he's not doing it alone. So far, he has brought in Taco y Vino, Slow Bone, Ka-Tip Thai Street Food, Tribal All Day Cafe and Azucar Ice Cream Company to participate in the effort he calls Connecting People and Plates. As of Wednesday, April 1, anyone can purchase a meal at any of these establishments for someone else.
“What we're seeing is larger restaurants are able to shoulder some of this burden and keep their people going as well as provide supplemental help for their staff by way of food, and it's something we really want to do, but we’re super small,” Holt says. “We're coming to the realization that a bailout is not going to happen. And how do we kind of convince the people that patronize our restaurant that it's important, now as it ever has been if not more so, to support your favorite restaurants and tie in a little bit of giving?
“Not everybody is without a job and without income; we're still seeing people purchasing food to go and being thankful for the service provided.”
As restaurants have had to close or downsize to takeout-only operations, people have lost their jobs. For the last few weeks, we've heard about countless chefs working hard to keep the business going just to keep their people employed, and it's still happening.
That's why groups such as Heard That Foundation and others are giving away free meals to people in the industry who have lost their jobs from the impact of COVID-19.
How Connecting People and Plates works: Just call the restaurant, order your food, and say you want to order a meal (or a few?) for someone in the industry, and the restaurant takes care of getting it to them.
“It should be really, really simple,” Holt says. “And it's simple by design; once things get complicated, it’s just too much to deal with.”
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Restaurants will post on the newly formed Facebook page and state how many options they have for the day, based on how many contributions have come in.
It’s pretty simple, both in concept and hopefully execution come April 1.
“It was a no-brainer,” says Jimmy Contreras of Taco y Vino. “People are looking to help support restaurants, and we are trying to figure out how to help our [service industry] family. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
“The time that we're in is really tricky because by nature we want to serve, and now our ability to do so is limited,” Holt says. “I think that most people generally want to help, and when they're provided different avenues to do so, they respond in a way that's really impactful. The more that we can rely on our customers as we always have, to just do what they do ... order something, enjoy it and, if they want to, kick some dollars to displaced people in hospitality.”