Stories / Impact

How You Can Help Save Restaurants

We must do everything we can.

Katherine Miller

March 20, 2020


Photo by Jeffrey Gurwin
Photo: Jeffrey Gurwin

Over the last 10 days we’ve seen hundreds of restaurants pivot from dine-in to take out to closing their doors. Seven million people have been laid off and chefs and restaurant owners have become fluent in the ins and outs of disaster relief and applications for emergency aid.

It has been f*#king awful. More than one chef cried in the walk-in this week, maybe even on the sidewalk, as they've let people go and pulled the security gate down over the windows, unsure of when (or even if) they will reopen.

We know that has happened because we've made similar tough decisions. We shuttered the historic James Beard House, postponed the Beard Awards, and took all of our impact programming and national events off the calendar. Our team has done a hard pivot and is now working on several levels to try and save the restaurant industry from complete collapse. But there are things that each and every one of us can do, whether you’re a diner or industry professional. Here are some ideas and resources:

Buy and Donate

Most restaurants don't have two to three months of capital in the bank to weather this storm. It is an industry that is always paying last month’s invoices today. It employs more than 16 million people. Those jobs, those businesses are at serious risk. Restaurants need people to give big tips to to-go staff, buy dining bonds, and gift certificates, and donate to employee relief funds.

Think about all the money you might have spent in a restaurant in March and consider donating it to the James Beard Foundation’s Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund. This national fund—created with support of S. Pellegrino and PATRÓN tequila—will help businesses weather this crisis and prepare to reopen.

Call Your Governor

Emergency unemployment benefits are becoming available. The Small Business Administration is releasing loan dollars. If you're a small business (under 500 employees) you may qualify for emergency assistance through agencies in your state. We've compiled a list of state SBA links, state COVID-19 information and a handy list of governors and their contact information. If you haven't already, get calling

Call Congress, A Lot

Economic recovery packages are moving in Congress. The James Beard Foundation knows our industry isn't a one-size-fits -all solution. We see promise in the work of Restaurant Opportunity Center, the National Restaurant Association, and the newly formed Independent Restaurant Coalition. There may be different types of relief needed but we are all united in one message: save restaurants.

Our industry’s economic impact is huge—16 million jobs and nearly a trillion dollars in spend. But we are also made up of unique businesses that hold up local economies in every town, county, and state in the United States. Call your members of Congress and remind them we are too important to ignore and too small to let fail.

This is the biggest crisis to hit our industry. It demands a powerful and constant effort to save our beloved restaurants. It is time for us all to step up—every customer, every corporation, every member of Congress.

We at the James Beard Foundation look forward to being able to dine among friends. Until then, we will do everything we can to save the restaurant industry and everyone it supports, from dishwashers to bartenders and servers to cooks, farmers, and producers. Join us today. Do everything you can do to help us save restaurants.

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