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Eat Out gives back to the restaurant industry, feeding a nation in need

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In just over two weeks, the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund has distributed R980 000 to 32 restaurants, helping them make over half a million meals in May for hungry people across South Africa. Here’s the story behind the fund.

On 1 April, New Media made the difficult decision to pause restaurant reviews and postpone the annual Eat Out Restaurant Awards, which was due to take place in November. Just a few days into the COVID-19 lockdown, it was clear to us that eating out wouldn’t be the same for a long time.

Then, as the number of hungry people in South Africa increased under lockdown, we saw many cooks and restaurateurs step in to use their skills to help. Our question was: who is providing for these providers?

So we refocused our efforts on assisting the restaurant industry, which has supported our Eat Out brand for over 20 years, by developing and launching the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund in partnership with Community Chest. The fund provides financial aid to restaurants making meals for those in need and has enabled dedicated people to go back to work to make a real difference in our society.

Our CEO, Aileen Lamb, says: “We want this fund to keep our beloved industry operating and provide much-needed financial assistance so they can reopen their doors as viable businesses when the time comes.”

The Eat Out content, social media, sales and marketing teams, our techy friends at Swipe iX and our PR agency, Mango-OMC, Zoomed up a storm and it all came together in record time.

“It was a mad scramble to get everything going,” says former editor-in-chief of Eat Out Adelle Horler, who was involved in the setup of the fund. “Within about 10 days this went from nothing more than an idea to a launched fund website, new content and social strategies, a raft of legal criteria and T&Cs, a sales team that pivoted to getting donations rather than advertising, and a dedicated – in every sense of the word – content team that put in long hours and weekend work to get it up and running. It’s been a brilliant ride, and has really felt good to be part of some solutions in this time.”

New Media seeded the fund with R500 000, and Retail Capital and Graham Beck/Steenberg Vineyards soon came on board, each donating R100 000.

Retail Capital CEO Karl Westvig says he’s supporting the initiative because “many of our restaurant owners are not trading right now but they do have facilities, and they do have staff – and many of them are using those facilities and staff to feed the hungry”.

CEO of Graham Beck and Steenberg Vineyards Chris du Toit adds: “To the head chefs, the porters, the waiters and the cooks who are working to help the vulnerable at this time, thank you for choosing hope. Let’s support our diverse world-leading restaurant industry now to ensure that when the time comes, we can all return to doing what we so love – gathering around a gourmet meal at our favourite restaurants, drinking a toast and celebrating what matters.”

In two weeks, as corporate and individual donations have poured in, we’ve been able to distribute R980 000 in donations to 32 restaurants. This is helping them make over half a million meals in May for those in need across SA, feeding around 17 000 vulnerable people every day.

The needs are diverse and funded restaurants are meeting them head on. For example, Café Extrablatt in Green Point, Cape Town, is cooking meals for The Haven Night Shelter. Meanwhile, Jackson’s Real Food Market and Eatery is distributing meals to vulnerable families in Joburg and Thava Indian Restaurant committed to feeding over 1 000 people every day from their community kitchen in Norwood, Joburg.

Chef David Schneider of Chefs Warehouse at Maison in Cape Town sums it up: “In a time where it feels like all change is bad, you get reminded that just by doing something small, by adding value to the community around you, some change is extraordinary.”

Life as we knew it no longer exists and there are South Africans in desperate need of help. One of the sectors most affected is also one that can make a huge difference. All around the country, restaurant kitchens are opening to serve their communities, and our Eat Out team can be proud that they’re providing hope and kindness to communities in need.

The Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund will continue to operate for as long as the need is there. Can you help? Donate at help.eatout.co.za.

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