How Can We Support Chefs and Restaurants During COVID-19?
Some chefs have virtually wiped out their savings paying rent during shut down and trying to keep their staff on their books. One such chef is Farouk Ugucu, owner of a Safron Grill on Washington Avenue in South Beach, and his brother, Chef John.
“Our staff was with us in the good times, so I don’t want to leave them in the bad,” says Chef Farouk.
Coronavirus “Bad Times” for Restaurants
South Beach is synonymous with glam, ostentatious displays of wealth in the form of race cars, luxury yachts, nightlife, plenty of tourists and as the Latin-ized version of Las Vegas.
As the saying goes: "What goes on in Miami… is flagrantly posted on social media!"
Tourism in South Beach has been extremely volatile since COVID-19 exploded and shelter-at-home orders were announced.
From almost frenzied activity in anticipation of the 4th of July weekend, to eerily deserted this past week, the hospitality sector hasn’t been able to stabilize and make much headway.
While some of Safron Grill’s clients are the typical tourist on a casual walk, the majority of their loyal clientele are middle-class working locals who come for “good, fresh food at the right price.”
Between the drastic reduction in tourism, the curfew and the fact that their regular clients are now cooking at home because they cannot afford even their competitive pricing, Safron Grill is surviving off of only ¼ of their normal business.
If the government recoils now, the family-owned business may have to make decisions they’d been fighting to avoid.
“I’ve never gotten a bad review in three years of business here,” claims Chef Farouk.
The immigrant from Turkey has managed to make his small restaurant a success by all means, including earning a TripAdvisor award, which gets him international visitors. His commitment to “always have fresh food, prepared the same day and never two days old,” has won his neighbors over.
However… the restaurant’s normally loyal clientele is also experiencing a big shock and uncertainty during COVID-19.
What can we do to help save many of these restaurants from closing or chefs and staff from losing their homes? #supportlocal #supportlocalchefs
1. Spread the word to restaurants about the newest grant for the hospitality sector in Miami-Dade!
As of July 16 a Miami-Dade resolution has set up a $5 million business grant program from the 2020 Coronavirus Relief fund that will be handled solely by the “SOBEFIU fund” (comprised of two entities: the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management).
Below we’ve paraphrased some of the important points of the resolution, which aims “to enable the Grantee [SOBEFIU] to provide financial assistance to eligible establishments in the hospitality sector.”
Businesses may request funding for “a maximum of two independently owned and operated hotels, hotel restaurants, bars or caterers.”
Be prepared to show that you have experienced one of the following:
· “temporarily cease operations”
· “lay off employees”
· or that your business has been “severely diminished due to locally-mandated closure orders”
Another general resource is the FIU’s grants page for the hospitality sector.
Businesses that are applying must agree to provide a sworn affidavit that they will abide by the following standards:
To pay its laid-off or furloughed employees $500.00, with a maximum of up to $15,000 per establishment
Pay their employees by either check or money order [i.e. no cash, credit, alternative digital payments or otherwise]
Submit copies of the checks/money orders and supporting payroll documentation to SOBEFIU within ten (10) business days after receipt of the SOBEFIU Funds
Do stay tuned to the news and announcements by the Miami-Dade government for more details.
Copy and paste the link to this blog and share it with fellow foodies!
2. Have fun and help out a chef at the same time by catering an event. You can have a family-and-friends meal, hire a chef to cook during your vacation or to celebrate an occasion! GetPrivateChef makes this easy and your business means immediate support during these unstable times.
At GetPrivateChef.com, with our concierge service based in Miami, we have many contacts with highly-trained, creative chefs as well as budgets to fit your desires.
Choose from a
simple n’ easy Family-style catering starting at $59 per person*
Gourmet dinner at $75 per person*
culinary delight at $100 per person* that is so good we call it “Temptation”
Prestige package that is as visually appealing as it is delectable and unique. An unforgettable experience at $150 per person*
sushi dinner can also be arranged, with Sushi Chefs that have studied with some of the most recognized names, at $175 per person*
dinner by a Kosher Chef that aims to please at $200 per person*
*6 person minimum for this pricing. Feel free to contact us for a quote for less than 6 people.
The personal chef can come to your home or you can agree on another suitable location. Consider some of the benefits of hiring a personal chef.
If you don’t have a location in mind, we have a portfolio of private and semi-private locations to choose from. Our favorite is a privately-owned modern floating space perfect for a cozy get together. Sanitation is important for us and we will take precautions.
3. Hire a chef for your content needs in your publication or advertise on their website
If you’re a foodie or have a media outlet that a chef could guest write or talk on, now is your chance to get to work with them!
Normally, chefs are up at the crack of dawn, either buying fresh ingredients from specialty markets, and/or prepping in the kitchen for their busy day. And then they cook until they close late at night and then their night isn’t even over. They have to clean.
“You don’t have a life,” Chef Farouk laments ever so slightly, after 35+ years of cooking.
Now, with a curfew, many restaurants are closing at 8pm or many have, unfortunately, shut down altogether because they don’t have outdoor seating (the only way they can currently host clients on property) or they can't break even.
This does mean, however, that many chefs have more time on their hands.
Now’s your chance to hire a chef to write a guest blog post or to appear in one of your YouTube videos, virtual podcasts or media broadcasts.
You can also advertise on their websites. Some chefs sell goods, meal plans, books or other items. You can request their “media kit” or, basically, their statistics about who interacts on their website.
If their audience also happens to be your niche target (most likely foodies), then you could advertise on their website for a given time and thereby provide some automatic income for the chef.
You can also support their side gigs. Some chefs are painters, beer brewers, or have other hobbies or professions that you could enjoy and that would also help them out.
4. Be vocal with the government
I asked Chef John at Safron Grill if he agrees with the tightening of the social distancing and rollback of the re-opening:
“Yes,” Chef John answers without hesitation. While he has some questions about the government’s current understanding of the virus, he complies with social distancing measures. All employees in their restaurant wear masks and they do not allow customers to sit indoors, as per the government mandates.
Safron Grill’s few tables on the sidewalk have umbrellas, but as Chef Farouk explains: “It’s too hot outside. Thankfully delivery has been working. If it wasn’t for delivery…” he waves his hands horizontally, “we couldn’t have made it.”
“But give us our hours back!” exclaims Chef Farouk, as if he was giving his solution, speaking directly to the government.
“Customers are not allowed to do pickups after hours. We are down to one quarter of the business…” exasperated. “Let us stay open later!”
5. Call the restaurants for more pickups/deliveries and kindly tip
The chefs and wait staff at Safron Grill are grateful that for greater part, their local clientele has abided by the social distancing mandates. If you follow social distancing mandates, most restaurants would be happy to have you as their guest in their outdoor seating. If you would prefer to eat at home, keep your local restaurants in mind for pickup or delivery.
The curfew, reduced hours in some malls, reduction of employee’s hours and a deep dent in profits have meant that tipped employees just don’t have as much to count on and bills are piling up.
“There is one client who comes by every week and always tips the waitress $50. He says he knows that times are tough and wants to help. Our waitress always gets happy,” Chef Farouk imitates her smile and stands up straighter, “when she sees him because she knows she will go home with a bit more that day.”
Keep in mind that the wait staff puts the orders together, but when a delivery is made, only the person who made the delivery actually keeps the tip. Delivery people need work as well, so neither are bad options.
But with curbside pickups, your tips go directly to the wait staff.
Hiring a personal chef is a great way to support them and
the assistant chefs, wait staff and others that they work with.
If you’d like to lighten up your own life with a small, family dinner or go all out
with a luxurious soiree, GetPrivateChef would be happy to hear from you.
Our spectacular event planner, D’Light Events
can arrange your décor, cleanup, recycling and sanitation.
We love what we do!