Atlanta restaurant raises $50,000 to help staff through uncertain time


Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

At Buckhead’s Italian restaurant La Grotta, the phone won’t stop ringing.

The nation is caught in the grip of the novel coronavirus. The mayor of Atlanta has put strict occupancy limits on city restaurants. The national trade association estimates the restaurant industry will lose millions of jobs and sales could decline by $225 billion.

Yet, this week La Grotta partner Christian Favalli is taking one phone call after another. It’s his customers, and they are not calling to place an order. They are buying the restaurant’s gift cards — a whole lot of them, in fact, because they know the proceeds are going to the staff.

By Wednesday afternoon, La Grotta had raised more than $50,000.

"The phone is still ringing off the hook,” Favalli said.

These are uncertain times for many, but few are being hit harder by concerns over the global pandemic than those working in the nation’s restaurants.

In a March 18 letter to President Trump and congressional leaders, the National Restaurant Association said, “We are facing economic headwinds that will lead many restaurants to shut down, lay off workers, and end our service in our communities.”

La Grotta has closed except for take-out. It's using a limited menu and a minimal staff. Other restaurants are trying that approach for a while.

Not all can hold out.

On Wednesday, Atlanta’s Victory Brands said the novel coronavirus is forcing them to temporarily lay off more than 100 employees. From 5 million to 7 million people working in the industry across the country could lose their jobs, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Most of the roughly 30 staff at La Grotta have been working-paycheck to paycheck. They will need help with rent, with utilities, transportation, and food.

“It’s the uncertainty of it all,” Favalli said, adding that the situation could last for months. “They don’t know what to do.”


This week, as La Grotta staff began to realize how much money was being raised to help them, some were moved to tears.