We’re all missing our favorite restaurants right now. The luxury of not having to cook every meal, the diversity of options, beloved staff members who always know what you want to drink—but the restaurant business is missing its customers even more. As food establishments close because of the coronavirus pandemic and restaurant workers find themselves out of work, things look grim.
That’s where Guy Fieri is stepping in.
The restauranteur and Food Network personality has a series of successful shows and the respect of folks who used to make fun of him for being, well, Guy Fieri. Now, the food aficionado is channeling his endless energy into partnering with the National Restaurant Foundation on its restaurant employee relief fund, which will be distributed to eligible particpants in $500 grants. As of Friday, the fund had reached $10 million.
But Fieri is not done. His goal? 10 times that amount.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business my whole life. This is all I know,” Fieri told The Washington Post. “This is what I do. I love the restaurant business, and I know it inside and out. As soon as this happened and the restaurants started closing, I looked at my wife and said, ‘What are all these people going to do?'”
With restaurants closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of restaurant-related jobs have been lost—and no one knows if and when those jobs will come back. Some restaurants are functioning on take-out and delivery services, but it’s a challenge to even sustain that. Staff who have been laid off for the foreseeable future are struggling.
“These are the places we celebrate the milestones,” Fieri said. “These are the places we go to get our fundraising donations for our kids’ soccer team. These are the places where we go on our first dates and our last dates. The good, the bad and the fantastic can all happen in restaurants.”
“This is a terrible time. Please recognize that you could have people losing everything—your favorite pizzeria, your favorite Indian restaurant, your favorite sushi joint, your favorite watering hole could all go away and be gone, and these people are onto a whole ‘nother nothing.”
Fieri hopes those in a financially secure situation choose to support restaurant employees by ordering takeout now, by eating out more often once establishments open again, or contributing what they can to relief funds like the National Restaurant Association’s.
“The recognition and support and enthusiasm has just been overwhelming,” Fieri said. “Part of what the restaurant business is about is the feeling. These are people who, when you walk through the door, smile at you and ask how your day is. The bartender sits and listens to your issue. Everybody’s got this personal connection, so when people in the business see the world they’ve taken care of is now taking care of them, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.”