Coronavirus Feel Good Stories

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many stores have come out about people stepping up to protect, assist, and support their communities. Here are some of our favorite stories about the incredible people of the restaurant industry doing their part.

Feeding Community Members and Frontline Workers

1. When The District in Providence, RI had to close its doors due to restrictions and bans, they used up their remaining inventory to bake as many pizzas as they could for local healthcare workers. The staff then personally delivered the pizzas to a nearby hospital to say thanks. This is something many other restaurants across the country are also doing to ensure inventory doesn’t go to waste, donating the food to hospitals, firefighters, nonprofits, and other emergency workers.

The District

2. In more pizza-related news, when the “stay at home” orders went into effect for California, Diana and Al Vallorz, owners of San Jose Pizzeria Tony & Alba’s, delivered free pizzas to the elderly citizens in their community. After their Facebook post about the pizzas went viral, donations starting coming in to help the couple with expenses, allowing them to also deliver salads along with the pizzas.

diana vallorz
Photo: Diana Vallorz

3. Melissa Miranda, the chef and owner of Seattle-based restaurant Musang, which opened just two months before the bans and lockdowns began, has converted her restaurant into a community kitchen to help feed food-insecure families and individuals in her neighborhood. While trying to simultaneously serve the community and keep her business afloat, she’s set up a Venmo account (@melmir) to help cover the cost of meals, pay her staff, and donate to local hospitals.


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Restaurants Became Food Banks

4. Beginning March 26, Olmstead in NYC reopened its doors as a free food bank to industry workers in need. They put a call out to vendors and fellow chefs to donate goods and volunteer their time. As of April 6, Olmstead was not only still able to keep their food bank up and running, they also had enough donations and volunteers to be able to open it up to everyone in the community.


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5. When Houstons White Co. in Rehoboth Beach, DE had to shut down all of their restaurants they took a similar route. Instead of wasting their unused food, they moved all of their inventory to one location and began donating pantry items to their community. 


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6. Union in Fort Collins, CO donated $50,000 to their local county food bank to help those in need, despite their own need to close their doors.


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Serving Up More Than Food and Beverages

7. J5 Steakhouse in Spicewood, TX started offering sundries to those in need as part of their services. They are delivering toilet paper, soap, and other essentials to the elderly and under-served folks in their neighborhood in an effort to keep their employees working and to give back.


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8. The Industrious Spirits Company in Providence is making hand sanitizers with their vodka by-product and distributing them free to anyone who needs it. “We want to do our part in helping the community during these challenging times,” distiller Dan Neff said in an email to The Providence Journal. Other distilleries across the US have also been making hand sanitizers for their local healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and delivery drivers.


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9. Celebrity chefs like Thomas Keller have banded together with New Orleans-based law firm Gauthier, Murphy & Houghtaling, LLC to form the Business Interruption Group. Their mission to help other restaurateurs save their businesses through payouts from insurance companies, which have been denying businesses payments through Act of God clauses. “The purpose of Thomas Keller’s lawsuit is to establish the law, that the insurance companies owe for civil authority coverage for the coronavirus,” John Houghtaling, majority partner in the law firm, told Restaurant Hospitality. “We’re asking a judge to determine what the law is.”


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Chefs and Restaurateurs Supporting Each Other

10. Chef Chris Shepherd’s nonprofit, the Southern Smoke Foundation, began collecting both donations and applications in order to help restaurateurs in the Houston area, despite the fact that the foundation had to cancel an upcoming fundraiser themselves. “This industry is so insular, and the culture is that people become like family. That mentality means that I have a lot of people reaching out to me who are worried about their employees, their family, and their friends,” Shepherd told Eater


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11. Hook Hall, a 13,000 square foot event space in Washington DC, set up a distribution center and handed out care packages and chef-cooked meals to any out of work industry professionals, as well as kids who are missing out on school meals. Local businesses and vendors pulled together to help Hook Hall’s efforts, donating everything from baby wipes to pantry staples, and even 3,000 oysters.


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12. In Providence, the Courtland Club spent an afternoon during the early days of the shutdowns making and distributing free pizzas to all recently laid off industry workers before having to close their doors indefinitely. 


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Bonus Story: Customers Leave $9,400 Tip to Help Restaurateur Pay His Staff

13. Before all restaurants were forced to shut down or pivot to takeout and delivery only models, two dine-in customers in Houston left an unexpected surprise for the staff and owner of Irma’s Southwest. A couple who wished to remain anonymous left a $9,400 tip on a $90.12 check with a note stating, “Hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks.” Irma’s owner Louis Galvan distributed the money evenly to all 30 of his employees.

receipt louis galvan
Photo: Louis Galvan
Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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