COVID-19 has been, undeniably, one of the most inconvenient events of our lifetime. Seemingly overnight Coronavirus had managed to shut down entire industries. As Miami began to shut down, F+B Hospitality was quick to recognize that the hospitality industry was being heavily affected. Felix Bendersky, owner of F+B remarked “It hit close to home, we realized that our clients, their employees, and the entire Miami hospitality community were suddenly stuck in a very unfortunate position. So many people were left suddenly unemployed and without a lot of options.”
With a stay at home order in place, everything closed, and quarantine time on their hands, the F+B Hospitality team wanted to take action to help the Miami community in their most difficult time in need. After brainstorming the best ways to help the local restaurant community, the Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund was created to provide some immediate relief for as many people as possible.
Fueled by the insights of notable Miami-area chefs led by Brad Kilgore of Kilgore Culinary and joined by Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine, Michelle Bernstein of La Trova, and Michael Beltran of Ariete, F+B was successfully able to raise awareness and funds to be destributed directly to out of work employees.
The fund provided $250 grants to many qualifying out-of-work restaurant workers in Miami-Dade County to cover basic living expenses and provide for their families. The fund was successfully able to raise over 110 thousand dollars utilizing grass roots community focus tactics.
Part of the application to receive a grant required applicants to describe their hardships. This not only provided F+B Hospitality, Kilgore Culinary and their supporters with a better picture of what was happening on an individualized basis, but additionally charged an unstoppable motivation. The fund received thousands of applications, and in reviewing these applicants we became increasingly heavy-hearted as we were faced with an uncomfortable reality: these aren’t simply numbers on a spreadsheet. These are people who have built lives for themselves, yet are scared and unsure of their future.
While these are only a few of many examples, we hope that in sharing some of our community members' stories those who have donated or are considering donating will have a better idea of what their money has been, and will be used for.
“I had been working paycheck to paycheck for a longtime and not having the financial support for my family is affecting me and my loved ones in a way I never encountered. I’m sure there are people going through a very tough time as well, probably even worse, but not being able to support is taking much more from me than my energy or mental health. At this point any help is much appreciated. Hope this effort can make a difference for everyone.”
“My partner and I were laid off from our restaurant, due to the Coronavirus. We are facing difficult times coming up quickly, as bills and caring for our family (we have a 5 month old son) will be very challenging with no solid income.”
“We been closed for some time now at the restaurant I work for and we still don't know until when. My concern is serious cause I'm taking care of a 9 months baby and bill's keep coming. I have some savings but don't know for how long they will last if things keep the way they are now. Please help me.”
“Laid off due to COVID-19. The restaurant is currently closed, I am a student and live on my own, the restaurant was my only source of income to pay for rent and for tuition. Any and all help would be appreciated.”
Almost immediately, various press outlets including the Miami Herald, Miami News Times, Time Out, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, The Advocate, and Florida Politics Blog highlighted the fund in their respective articles, providing the altruistic consequence of exposure. The more people that knew about the fund, the more people were willing to donate.
In addition to the incredible exposure F+B Hospitality received from news outlets, other creative members of the restaurant community found ways to help partner and be proactive about encouraging donations. The “Save Miami Hospitality” daily virtual happy hour featured local Miami bars and restaurants - and allowed virtual participants to “tip” their favorite bartenders and chefs, with all proceeds donated within a day of feature being matched by sponsors in an effort to benefit out-of-work employees at that venue.
Additionally, several other incredible businesses stepped up to contribute in various different ways. Perla Specialty Roasters offered to donate $5 per 12oz bag and $10 per 2lb bag sold to the Miami Employee Relief Fund. The amazing owners of Secret Vine Wine, Jerome Hyafil, Daniel Murphy, and Patrick Charpentier have donated 8% of all sales to the Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Tiger Seed, a South Florida beverage brand, produces three organic handcrafted beverages: Gingerade, Turmeric Tea, and Matcha Mint. $5 from each case purchased is donated to the fund.
The Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund would not have been able to raise nearly enough if it weren’t for the amazing businesses and people who stepped up to make a difference. For that, F+B Hospitality, along with many others cannot thank them enough. It is going to take some time to heal the Miami Hospitality industry, but thankfully we have some of the best personalities in the country to help us progress and recover.
Now you can give your support once again as the Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund has been nominated for a Time Out Miami Award and needs your vote. Please visit the site and vote MRERF as the #1 Community Champion.