Figures within the restaurant industry — still reeling from the sudden economic impact and uncertainty due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — have banded together to create a relief fund that would provide financial support to restaurant workers.
Restarateur and celebrity chef Guy Fieri joined ABC News’ “Pandemic: What You Need to Know” Wednesday to discuss his partnership with the National Restaurant Association, and how they’re working “to get money to those in the industry who have been affected by this pandemic.” The fund would cover various restaurant staff, including upper management, chefs, servers, and dishwashers.
The “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host has been involved with the California branch of the restaurant association for years. He said he knew something large scale needed to be done for people who’ve lost their jobs in restaurants.
“We got tens of thousands of restaurants that are closing. Some for a short period of time, and some probably forever,” Fieri said. “We have millions and millions of restaurant employees without jobs. We’re at three million now. Estimation is this could go to five million to seven million. [We’re] talking about at lot of families, hourly employees, people living paycheck to paycheck.”
Experts have predicted that over the next three months, five to seven million restaurant service and kitchen jobs could be eliminated.
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These being “desperate times,” Fieri said the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has the resources necessary to distribute the relief.
“They have the program inside the organization to receive donations and help get that money out to those who need it and right now, and we’re making some great headway and we’re at the point of reaching $10 million dollars toward our goal of $100 million,” he said.
Pedestrians walk by a boarded up restaurant, March 31, 2020, in San Francisco, Calif.Pedestrians walk by a boarded up restaurant, March 31, 2020, in San Francisco, Calif.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
People who have been impacted are encouraged to apply for financial aid online. The fund is open to the public for donations, of which 100% of the proceeds will go to those in need.
“The National Restaurant Association was awesome to jump in and say, ‘We have the educational foundation. We’re used to giving out money and helping with scholarships. So we can handle this volume,'” Fieri said. “Our website is a great place to make donations, it’s also a great place to get information about receiving the grants.”
Beyond the immediate philanthropic efforts, Fieri says “it’s not just the money. It’s also the comfort. The recognition that your community you’ve been serving for years and years is now giving you the support.”
“Now is a great time to help out,” he added. “The great thing is the NRAEF is ready to go and get that money out.”
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Even for Fieri, a veteran in the foodservice and restaurant industry, the scope of the impact from COVID-19 on restaurants — both big and small — is unlike anything he’s ever experienced.
“I, personally, have never seen anything quite like this. So, we need to make the most of this situation,” he said. “You can be sure that once all this is over, I will continue to remind folks to come out and eat. Until then, we need to help each other out as much as possible.”
Fieri implored people to show support for restaurants once they begin opening up again.
“When we’re done with this, we got a long road. Please go out and visit your favorite restaurants. Get food to-go. Buy gift certificates. If you want to talk about an industry that needs support it’s the restaurant folks.”