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Heartwarming Ways Restaurants Are Giving Back to the Community

From donating thousands of meals to delivering coffee, doughnuts, and pizza

Pizza from Escape Escape From New York Pizza

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: All restaurants are fighting an impossible battle right now, just trying to make rent and keep the lights on. So many have had to close kitchens and lay off cooks and are simply doing their best to keep health benefits going. But some restaurants are truly going above and beyond, finding scrappy and creative ways to feed out-of-work cooks and servers, doctors and nurses, police officers, seniors, homeless, and anyone else in need. Here are just a few of the amazing ways restaurants are giving back to their communities during the current health crisis.

This article is not comprehensive. There are so many restaurants and organizations giving back in so many ways, both large and small. These are just a few heartwarming examples.

Lobbying for Change

Org: Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA)

What: Lobbying officials, providing resources

Established in 1936, the GGRA prides itself on being the go-to resource for the restaurant industry in the Bay. It went to town during the crisis, helping connect restaurants to grants and loans, and advocating at the city, state, and national levels. Notably, executive director Laurie Thomas convinced the mayor to cap delivery app fees at 15 percent, a huge win for restaurants.

Additionally, an outspoken crew of local chefs recently formed the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition, starting the hashtag #saverestaurants. Members include Mourad Lahlou (Aziza, Mourad), Kim Alter (Nightbird), Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb), and Brandon Jiu (Mister Jiu’s, Mamahuhu). In addition to speaking out on social media, they’re also helping cooks and servers navigate unemployment, and restaurant owners trying to get a break on rent.

Investing in Small Businesses

Org: SF New Deal

Who: Lenore Estrada (Three Babes), Emmett Shear (Twitch)

What: Supporting small businesses

Impact: $1,000,000 disbursed to small businesses, 100,000 meals delivered

Emmett Shear, the CEO from Twitch, gave a million dollars toward setting up a nonprofit to support small businesses through the coronavirus crisis. He’s partnering with Lenore Estrada of Three Babes Bakeshop, who’s disbursing the funds to restaurants, trying to give them steady business so they can continue employee hours and benefits. The meals go to hospitals, churches, seniors, homeless, and other people in need.

Dropping Off Big Donations

Org: Food Runners

What: Big food donations

When restaurants shut down across the city, one of the first things they did was clear out the walk-ins, resulting in a huge amount of food that was available to be donated. For example, when the newly opened Chase Center shut down mid season, the massive new facility was left with enough for two upcoming Warriors games and a concert. Food Runners is an existing organization that delivers 20,000 meals in San Francisco every week, and they were ready to catch the ball and disburse those food donations to people in need.

Boxing Up Groceries for Cooks and Servers

Who: Chef Gonzalo Guzman (Nopalito)

What: Grocery boxes

Impact: Up to 100 boxes a week

Restaurants also turned around and simply started handing boxes of groceries. Chef Gonzalo Guzman from Nopalito has been quietly packing up nearly a hundred boxes a week and giving them out to his own cooks and servers, as well as friends and family in the immigrant community.

Handing Out Meals to the Neighborhood

Who: Che Fico

What: Family meals

Impact: 12,000 family meals, feeding 25,000 to 30,000 people

Che Fico put a call out to the tech elite, asking them to donate and pool together money. Using those funds, the restaurant is able to hand out family meals, which feed 2 to 3 people and are completely free to anyone in need.

Paying It Forward to Farmers

Org: Sonoma Family Meal and FEED Sonoma

What: Meals and CSA boxes

Impact: $250,000 raised, 200 meals a day, 100 CSA boxes a week

Sonoma Family Meal was originally founded in response to the wine country fires, but the organization is now tackling the challenges of the coronavirus crisis. With a hefty check from Jordan Winery, and in collaboration with Single Thread and several other local restaurants and caterers, they’re now feeding 200 people a day. True to form, they’re also taking good care of their farmers, partnering with FEED Sonoma, the community food hub, to put together 100 vegetable boxes a week, thus helping to keep a number of small local farms afloat as well.

Feeding Healthcare Heroes

Orgs: Feed the Line and Frontline Foods

What: Meals for hospitals

Impact: $175,000 raised, 10,000 meals, 80 restaurants, and 17 hospitals

Butchershop, a local creative agency, was a local trailblazer for raising funds and getting meals to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Their original program, Feed the Line, raised more than $175,000 dollars and donated 10,000 meals to local hospitals. With a growing roster of restaurants, they’re now partnering with Frontline Foods, part of World Central Kitchen.

Coffee from Andytown Andytown Coffee Roasters

Caffeinating Doctors and Nurses

Who: Andytown

What: Coffee delivery

Impact: $65,000 in coffee and pastries

Andytown Coffee Roasters was one of the first to start accepting donations and dropping off coffee and scones at local hospitals. To date, their “coffee for heroes” program has delivered more than $65,000 worth of coffee, juice, pastries, and granola.

Pizza from Escape Escape From New York Pizza

Sending Pizza

Who: Escape from New York Pizza

What: Pizza delivery

Impact: Feeding 3,500 hospital workers

Escape From New York Pizza has been fueling essential workers with pizza. The Haight spot accepts donations every day, and however much they get, they send out that many pies the next day. They estimate they fed 3,500 hospital workers in the first month, up to 600 people in a single day.

Doughnuts from Johnny’s Doughnuts Johnny’s Doughnuts

Delivering Donuts

Who: Johnny’s Doughnuts

What: Doughnut delivery

Impact: $21,585 in coffee and doughnuts

Johnny’s, the local doughnut shop, is treating essential workers to deep-fried treats. Within a couple of weeks of shelter in place, “operation comfort” had already delivered an estimated $21,585 worth of coffee and doughnuts.

Hand sanitizer at Seven Stills Seven Stills

Distilling Hand Sanitizer

Who: Seven Stills

What: Making hand sanitizer

Impact: 5,800 gallons or 37,000 bottles

Seven Stills, the big new brewery and distillery in Mission Bay, joined other local distilleries in making the switch over to making hand sanitizer instead of whiskey. They just completed their first tanker load, which means 5,800 gallons or 37,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, which are largely going to Kaiser, Public Works, and SFPD.