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Restaurateur Camilla Marcus on Saving the Food Industry as We Know It

As part of our most recent #IndagareCheersChallenge, we’re inviting members and subscribers to toast the restaurants and meals around the world that they’ve loved. Especially as we strive to remain socially distant, we hope to celebrate the places we’ve loved—the places we long to see survive in the wake of COVID-19. Learn more on Instagram at @indagaretravel.

The restaurant industry—like travel—has been hard-hit by COVID-19. And, just as with travel, it will surely take time to usher in a new phase of nuanced normalcy. Restaurants are an environment where social gathering, communal interaction and sharing a great meal in close proximity to others the norm. In many ways, breaking bread—the ambience and collectivity of that experience—is just as important as the food served.

During a recent Global Conversation, our CEO and Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley spoke with restaurateur and advocate Camilla Marcus about travel, food and most importantly, a new initiative that Camilla is spearheading along with her fellow New York-based restaurateurs: ROAR NY (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants).

In partnership with local anti-poverty organization Robin Hood, and with the support of some of the top chefs and restaurateurs in New York, ROAR seeks to provide financial aid for New York City restaurant workers through direct donations and policy changes. As ROAR’s messaging advises, “Hospitality teams live to take care of guests. Now it’s our turn to take care of them.”

During the talk, Camilla shared these startling insights during her Global Conversation with Melissa, “Restaurants are the largest private employer, and we do not have an industry-specific package to date,” she noted. The industry as we know it relies on the idea that people will gather. “We are totally shut down right now, and going to be facing a year to a year-and-a-half of severe capacity restrictions mandated by the government for social distancing. We have the least access to capital, and we employ the most people. So when you talk about the perfect storm of what industries are harmed, we are the top of that list, and we have been all but ignored when it comes to specific relief packages.”

In addition to ROAR, to keep our favorite restaurants solvent, to support their employees and to ensure that, when responsible and safe, we can continue to enjoy meals with family and friends at all our former haunts, we recommend exploring the following selection of organizations and initiatives that rally support from individuals and lawmakers:

  • Fuel the Fight USA – FTF uses 100 percent of donations accrued to buy meals from local restaurants donate the meals to health care workers.
  • Spread – Spread is an online food delivery service that has launched a New York City-based, commission-free food delivery program. All profits, therefore, go directly to the local restaurants you’re ordering from, rather than to the delivery service. Most delivery services take up to 30 percent commission on deliveries.
  • The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) – Formed to save local restaurants affected by COVID, IRC is campaigning congress to establish a $120 billion Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund. This will provide resources to restaurants and restaurant workers to face the months and years ahead of rebuilding.
  • World Central Kitchen – The nonprofit from chef José Andrés has delivered more than 17 million meals to areas impacted by natural disasters and other crises around the world. Now, it’s activating restaurants around the United States and beyond to help feed medical professionals and to support the restaurant industry and its workers.
  • Funds4Food – Fund managers are donating to several food nonprofits, including WCK, when they set up meetings through Funds4Food with some of the world’s leading allocators.

Related: Nonprofits to Help in the Age of Coronavirus

– Avery Carmichael on May 21, 2020

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