Houston Restaurateurs Help Their Hurting Workers — Ben Berg’s Drive-Thru Barbecue, Free Meals and Emergency Relief Funds
Supporting Those Who Make Sure the City EatsBY Shelby Hodge // 03.20.20
Chef Charles Clark and the Clark Cooper Concepts team are cooking lunches daily for their laid-off employees.(Photo by Shannon Smith)
Benjamin Berg photographed at the opening of B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar, is raising funds for is 400 employees. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Chef Luis Roger and BCN/MAD team are cooking meals for food and beverage individuals who have lost their jobs. (Photo by Julie Soefer)(Photo by Julie Soefer)
As the impending devastation to Houston’s hospitality industry is in its nascent stage, compliments of COVID-19, restaurateurs and others are stepping up to help those who have been laid off and whose income has been impacted by the closure of bars and restaurant dining rooms.
The U.S. Labor Department estimates 277,000 people work in Houston area restaurants and bars, with approximately 56,000 working as waitstaff. These closings, though necessary, are a major disaster in the making.
The generosity and aid flowing to the city’s restaurant workers is once again confirmation of Houston’s deep roots of altruism, most recently witnessed in the support directed to citizens and first responders in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Remember Ben Berg wading through flood waters surrounding his home in 2017 to make it to B&B Butchers and Restaurant to provide daily meals for first responders. He’s at it again this time helping his own.
Berg, who employs more than 400 across his stable of restaurants, created a Berg Hospitality Group Family Relief Fund through a Go Fund Me campaign, with 100 percent of the funds dedicated to hourly employees. In addition, this Saturday and Sunday, Berg will host a drive-through barbecue fundraiser at B&B Butchers from noon to 4 pm with an assortment of smoked meats, side dishes and desserts. All proceeds go to hourly staff. The full menu is available here.
“This is honestly beyond the realm of imagination for our industry and my company, and it destroys me, as I know it does other restaurateurs in the city, that we cannot employ our hourly staff right now,” Berg tells PaperCity. “They truly are the backbone of our company, so we are going to try to do anything we can to help them out and keep them afloat during this crazy and unfortunate time in the hospitality world.”
In planning for the closing of its restaurants, Clark Cooper Concepts announced on Monday that it would be providing hot meals once a day for employees and their families affected by the shutdown.
On Wednesday, BCN/MAD, in thanks for widespread community support, announced that chef Luis Roger and his team would provide a curbside community kitchen to help those in the hospitality industry, who have been affected by the COVID-19, by donating 200 complimentary, individual meals — first come first serve. The team will be handing out meals — the same meals that the kitchen has been making for the staff lunch since the restaurants’ openings — from 5 to 7 pm curbside outside of MAD in River Oaks District.
Chef Chris Shepherd, forced to cancel his Southern Smoke Spring fundraiser, has put out a plea on his Southern Smoke Foundation website for donations for the emergency relief fund. The foundation supports individuals in the food and beverage industry who are in crisis. As the foundation website notes, “To everyone with the ability to donate: We need you now more than ever. Please support the people who have always supported you.”
In another hands across the table move, Construction Concepts, noted for its philanthropic arm, is joining forces with Bosscat Kitchen & Libations and BCK to serve some of Houston’s most at-risk. They will be, with customers help, donating up to 500 meals, through B.I.G. Love Cancer Care, for families and medical staff at Texas Children’s Hospital, MD Anderson, and cancer families quarantined at home. They will be donating one meal to B.I.G. Love Cancer Care for any order placed from Bosscat or BCK, no matter how big or small the order.