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DECEMBER 29, 2020

2020 Feel-Good Stories from the Restaurant Industry

By: Kim Lorang

2020 has been an interesting year, hasn't it?! While COVID-19 took center stage and changed life as we know it for people worldwide, a frenzy of other "that's so 2020" things happened to keep us on our toes. Murder hornets, Tiger King, a Presidential election, the death of George Floyd that spurred worldwide protests, out of control wildfires, the loss of Kobe Bryant, Sean Connery, and so many other much-loved figures...the list could go on and on!

When the going gets tough, and boy has this year been a tough one, Fred Rogers had a great way of keeping his head up. "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping". This advice was given to him by his mother, who had no idea how important that morsel of advice would come in handy in the year 2020!

Despite all of the tragedy we have experienced this year, extraordinary acts of kindness have been happening worldwide to remind us to stay hopeful!

As we reflect on the last year and usher in a new one that we sure hope will be less eventful, let's look at some 2020 feel-good stories that have come out of our industry!

In Pennsylvania, Nok (aka Chutatip Suntaranon) happily turned her popular restaurant, Kalaya (nominated by the James Beard Foundation as the Best New Restaurant in America), into a soup kitchen, offering "Phamily" meals to unemployed restaurant workers. Touched by her kindness, other local restaurants donated their perishable goods to Nok when they were forced to close down to make sure she had all the ingredients she needed to keep going! Nok even donated meals to hospital workers, and it's safe to say they were thrilled to receive them!

The folks at the Industrious Spirits Company in Rhode Island started using their distillery to make hand sanitizer, which they gave at no charge to anyone that needed some. Cocktails and sanitizer, talk about essentials for 2020!

Joseph "JJ" Johnson, owner of the Fieldtrip restaurant in New York, saw first hand how hard the healthcare workers were hit because of COVID. When his wife came off of a 15-hour shift starving because she had not had time to eat anything during her shift, he knew he had to do something to help the brave workers working tirelessly to treat their patients. He began by sending meals to hospitals and soon found people reaching out to him so they could pay to send workers meals through him. Whenever someone purchases a meal bowl online, customers can donate $8 to feed a healthcare worker. The response was overwhelming, which allowed JJ to bring his employees back to meet the demand all of the donations caused! Talk about a win-win! Fieldtrip's feel-good vibes don't stop at COVID, they regularly offer hot meals to those in need in their community.

In Seattle, the Frelard Tamale shop offers free meals to kids missing their school lunches, community members out of work, and anyone else that was affected by COVID-19. They plan to offer these free meals indefinitely. Owners Dennis and Osbaldo invite those in the community to stop by their shop to have a meal made for them free of charge, no questions asked. In addition, they started paying their workers a hazard pay of $3 per hour on top of their regular pay to thank them for continuing to work during COVID.

Celebrity chef Ed Lee decided to turn his D.C restaurant, Succotash, into a relief center for those affected financially by COVID-19. What once was a bustling restaurant turned into a place where hospitality workers can grab boxed meals, as well as essentials like diapers, produce, and toilet paper.

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri helped to raise over $20 million for out-of-work restaurant employees by partnering with the National Restaurant Association to create the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

We've heard some wonderful 2020 feel-good stories from SEFA dealers and supplier partners, too!

The team at Great Lakes Hotel Supply Company wants to take care of the restaurant and bar workers that work hard to take such good care of all of us when we visit their establishments! They've partnered with the Michigan Chefs De Cuisine Association to start a wonderful campaign that will directly help the Detroit area restaurant industry. The goal: to give $2,500 each to registered and approved business owners and $500 to individual employees. To learn more about how they are making a difference in their community during these difficult times, head here!

Sarah Auge, of B&G Restaurant Supply, is helping both restaurants and families in her community by organizing an amazing fundraiser! "Instead of churches opening up and cooking meals for families in need, we are raising money that will go directly to local restaurants who will then make the meals for the families in town that need it the most. It's the best 2-for-1 deal around, feeding Pittsfield residents while supporting Pittsfield restaurants! Every restaurant will be making a chicken parmesan dinner with pasta and salad and it will be for families of 2, 4, or 6." To learn more about her efforts, please email

Hollowick introduced a new product, the Hope Votive Lamp, and donated all of the net profits from the sale of that product to the James Beard Foundation Open for Good campaign. The campaign supports independent restaurant pandemic relief and recovery.

Joining in to support the James Beard Foundation's Open for Good campaign, Mafter Bourget donated a portion of all of their sales from April 1st - June 1st to the foundation's efforts to support restaurants during the pandemic.

Crest supported local restaurants by participating in the Rally for Restaurants campaign, a grassroots initiative to give restaurants a fighting chance amidst the COVID-19 health crisis. The site invites you to purchase gift cards online to your favorite restaurants during these hard times.

While our industry sure has shown up to spread kindness, people all over the world have done amazing things to remind us that no matter how hard things get, there is always good out there. Check out actor John Krasinski's YouTube page, Some Good News, for an extra dose of feel-good inspiration!

We hope these 2020 feel-good stories have put a smile on your face! We can't wait to see all of the wonderful ways our industry comes together in 2021.

For information on COVID-19, including dealer and supplier updates, please click here.

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