Atlanta’s Largest Restaurant Groups Are Stepping Up to Help Workers in Need
their employees and other Atlanta service industry members, following mass layoffs sparked by the COVID-19 restaurant closures.
The couple joined chef and restaurateur Edward Lee’s nationwide effort “Restaurant Workers Relief Program” to provide free boxes of essential food and household supplies to out-of-work restaurant employees. The new program is part of a partnership between Maker’s Mark bourbon and Lee’s organization, the Lee Initiative, which promotes inclusivity, equality, and mentorship programming within the restaurant industry.
“Ed is a longtime friend, and he reached out to Gina and I on their initiative, and we said ‘yes’. Our focus with Ed is on restaurant employees,” says Linton Hopkins, who is combining his resources with those of Atlanta restaurateur Michael Lennox on his charitable endeavor #ATLFAMILYMEAL. That project provides a similar service to Atlanta’s restaurant community, only with free meal deliveries to people’s homes.
The Hopkinses and Lennox are not alone in the work they’re doing to assist Atlanta’s unemployed restaurant workforce. Staplehouse joined with Giving Kitchen to launch “The Giving Soup Kitchen” at the Edgewood Avenue tasting menu restaurant. The makeshift soup kitchen serves 50 free meals a day to out-of-work service industry members.
Red Pepper Taqueria owner and chef, Mimmo Alboumeh, has partnered with Daniel Troppy of “Yes In My Backyard” (YIMBY) to deliver meals to Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta shelter for young people in the LGBTQ community.
The elderly and others in need living within Atlanta’s Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown neighborhoods are receiving free meals from local breakfast and brunch restaurant, Petit Chou.
Large restaurant groups with hundreds of employees and multiple Atlanta locations, like Hopkins and Co. and Lennox’s Electric Hospitality group (Golden Eagle, Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, Muchacho), have the ability to mobilize and tap into a vast network of human and financial resources. The broader impact made by these groups could potentially feed and employ hundreds of people throughout Atlanta who now find themselves suddenly unemployed.
“This is really going to take a wide network to solve,” Hopkins says of the various relief efforts by restaurants around Atlanta. “The number of chefs and restaurants who are paralleling this type of effort across our city is pretty amazing.”
As part of the Restaurant Workers Relief Program, the Hopkinses have set up four pick-up locations over seven days in Buckhead, East Atlanta, and at the Battery Atlanta complex in Cobb County. Restaurant workers who have been laid off or seen a significant reduction in pay can drive through and pick up boxes of supplies, like pantry staples, toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers, and personal hygiene products, on a first come, first served basis. Proof of recent employment, such as a pay stub, is required. The plan is to offer between 200 to 250 boxes of to-go meals and supplies at each food drive. The weekly pick-up schedule is posted on the Instagram and Facebook pages of the couple’s forthcoming restaurant, Eugene and Elizabeth’s.
Food donations have already been received from the Hilton in downtown Atlanta, East Lake Golf Club, and Royal Food Service. Hopkins says other large distributors, like US Foods, have also expressed interest in participating in the relief program.
“We have found that there is so much perishable food, we just need to organize production and distribution,” Hopkins tells Eater Atlanta. “We will continue to offer this program until we can no longer financially support the program.”
For now, the Atlanta Restaurant Workers Relief Program is allowing Hopkins to hire back some of his employees to help compile boxes, drive supplies to various relief locations, and hand out donations. So far, he’s hired back 20 people; he wants to keep growing the relief effort in order to rehire as many of his employees as possible, until he can finally reopen his restaurants.
Hopkins eventually hopes to expand the program to more Atlanta area locations, and include people in the healthcare industry and area hospitals working on the front lines to fight the virus.
While the Restaurant Workers Relief Program and #ATLFAMILYMEAL share a common goal, Lennox says his efforts are aimed squarely at feeding and employing hundreds of out-of-work Atlanta area restaurant employees, beyond his own group.
Lennox, along with his restaurant group, Electric Hospitality (Golden Eagle, Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, Muchacho), King of Pops, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, and the Hopkinses, will be preparing and delivering meals throughout Atlanta in hopes of feeding as many as 100,000 hospitality workers and their families. According to the Georgia Restaurant Association, approximately 500,000 Georgians work in some capacity within the state’s restaurant industry.
“We recognized an immediate need for a streamlined communication tool and logistics platform that could unify our expansive restaurant network and feed hospitality workers, the majority of whom live paycheck to paycheck, and have found themselves jobless overnight,” Lennox says #ATLFAMILYMEAL.
Since its launch earlier this week, Lennox says they’ve already delivered nearly 2,000 meals to hospitality workers across Atlanta, with the help of the Hopkinses, Fox Bros., and King of Pops.
Those people interested in receiving meals or becoming a driver for the program, can sign up online. Monetary donations can also be made on the #ATLFAMILYMEAL site, with funding going to purchase food and to those helping to prepare and deliver meals. The site claims a donation of just $20 equals four “family meals.”
Efforts such as those by the Hopkinses, Lennox, and restaurants like Petit Chou and Staplehouse are taking place everywhere around Atlanta, as restaurants wrangle resources to feed communities and their own employees during the abrupt shutdown of the industry.
“Ultimately, this is about reconnecting the local economy so that we can live in a world with restaurants on the other end,” says Lennox. “If you care about restaurants and want to live in a world with restaurants, we need to support the people who work in them and serve us food. We need to support the local farmers and suppliers that bring food into restaurants. We need to reconnect all of these dots so we don’t end up with a massive fraying of our society.”
Current Locations for Restaurant Workers Relief Program (pick-up from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
Friday, March 27
Eugene Kitchen, 2137 Manchester Street NE
Saturday, March 28
The Atlanta Battery at the Xfinity Lot, 2605 Circle 75 Parkway SE
Sunday, March 29
Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop, 2357 Peachtree Road
Monday, March 30
East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, 572 Stokeswood Avenue
Tuesday, March 31
Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop
Wednesday, April 1
The Atlanta Battery at the Xfinity Lot
Thursday, April 2
East Atlanta Village Farmers Market
To learn more about donating to the Restaurant Workers Relief Program, click here.
To donate to, sign up for meals, or sign up to drive for #ATLFAMILYMEAL, click here.