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Four Ways San Diego Restaurants are Giving Back During COVID-19 Closures

The generosity of these San Diego County restaurants, despite shrinking profit margins, is truly inspiring.

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March 23, 2020
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Campfire and Jeune et Jolie have launched “Camp Jeune,” a nightly family meal to-go from which all profits go to their staff.

The restaurant industry operates on slim margins under the best of circumstances, and the current pandemic and order to close in-restaurant dining, may prove to be the final straw for many San Diego County restaurants.

Despite these trying times, some local restaurants have shifted to focus on how they can help the community and their workers.

The generosity of these restaurants is an inspiring example of community at its best.

Sharing Profits

Cesarina  is operating on a pick-up and delivery model for their daily dinner menu, and has pledged to give 100% of the profits during this transitional phase to their working staff to supplement their hourly wages. According to the restaurant, “Ownership will NOT receive any cutbacks, as it’s their priority to support their employees, who have truly become one big extended Italian family.”

Campfire and Jeune et Jolie have launched “Camp Jeune,” a nightly family meal to-go. All profits from this initiative are going to staff to support them during this time. Priced at $28 per person, the meal will include three courses, with a unique menu available each night of the week. A rotating three course vegan menu option will also be available. Nightly menu options are posted on Campfire and Jeune et Jolie’s Instagram feed: @campfirerestaurant and @lejeuneetjolie and orders can be placed and paid for online at either jeune-jolie.com or thisiscampfire.com for curbside pick-up at Jeune et Jolie nightly from 5-9 pm.

Madison on Park is giving 100% of revenue, not just profits, back to their staff every night along with all gift card sales. They are currently offering take-out from 5:30-9pm and also available through Postmates and DoorDash. You can purchase gift cards here.

Giuseppe Capasso, Niccolò Angius, Giuseppe Scognamiglio of Cesarina are donating their profits to their staff. Image courtesy of Swells Creative.

Feeding Employees

Urban Kitchen Group is ensuring that employees at its five eateries across Southern California have reliable meals during this unprecedented time. While the restaurants are closed to the public until further notice, CUCINA urbana in San Diego has transitioned into a staff kitchen, providing meals for all UKG employees and their families with curbside pickup.

"In an industry where margins were already debilitating prior to the pandemic, it's incredibly stressful and heartbreaking that we cannot support our team members better during this crisis,” says Tracy Borkum, Principal of Urban Kitchen Group. “We are urging the state and federal government to provide more support for our employees until our restaurants can open again and our staff can return to work. In the meantime, the least we can do with the limited resources we do have as a restaurant group is to ensure that our employees are well and fed.”

The Cohn Restaurant Group has transitioned two of their concepts—The Prado at Balboa Park and 333 Pacific in Oceanside—into a CRG Team Food Pantry. These venues provide free family-style meals for CRG employees to enjoy at home. Employees arrange for curbside pickup on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

In addition to donations from companies such as Bread & Cie, Sysco and Moceri Produce, CRG is purchasing fresh ingredients, and a dedicated handful of the company’s executive chefs are preparing the care packages, which vary each day. Today’s pickup included a whole roasted chicken with cilantro lime sauce, chimichurri potatoes and a vegetable medley with garlic butter, alongside a selection of mini boxed cereals and milk, some fruit, and avocados.

Evans Hotels, which includes Bahia Resort Hotel, Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa and The Lodge at Torrey Pines, have continued their employee cafeteria services, allowing all employees to have access to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at no cost to them. As a preventative measure, they have switched from a communal buffet to bagged meals.

LOLA 55 is also providing one free to-go meal for all of their staff members, plus one family member, per day. In addition, LOLA 55 management has set aside a $10,000 fund to distribute to employees based on need.

CUCINA urbana is providing meals for all UKG employees and their families with curbside pickup.
Harrah's Resort Southern California has donated over 8,805 lbs of produce and refrigerated items to the San Diego Food Bank and The Foundry Escondido.

Feeding the Community

Harrah's Resort Southern California has closed and decided to donate over 8,805 lbs of produce and refrigerated items to the San Diego Food Bank and The Foundry Escondido, making sure those in need have food during this pandemic.

“During this time of uncertainty, we want to ensure that families, seniors and children in need have access to food,” said Bo Mazzetti, Chairman of the Rincon Tribe. “We are proud to partner with the San Diego Food Bank and The Foundry Escondido to assist in their missions to fight hunger throughout the communities they serve."

Common Stock is donating a meal to any person in San Diego who lost their job as a result of this crisis. They are operating on an honor system, and are posting on Instagram @eatcommonstock a daily code that can be used for a free meal.

“We have realized that this crisis is going to affect an enormous amount of people in this community, and we are hopeful that we stay busy, so that we can continue to help this community,” explains owner Anderson Clark. “A number of our closest friends, and fellow service industry workers lost their jobs this week, and we will make sure to the best of our ability that nobody will starve if they have to choose between paying rent and buying food.”

Fundraisers for Hospitality Workers

Brittany Merrill-Yeng and Steven Yeng, owners of OB Noodle House, The Holding Company, and Skrewball Whiskey, have launched a SKREW COVID-19 campaign. For every Instagram share of the SKREW COVID-19 campaign, they are donating $1 to the Bartender Emergency Assistance program to help restaurant employees who have been laid off due to the virus.

The campaign has already been shared 216,000 times, surpassing their original goal of $100K. They have already donated $100K and are still encouraging people to share with a new goal of now donating $500K.

Though Mister A’s and Mille Fleurs will remain closed until at least March 30th, they are currently offering “Gift Cards for Our People". 50% of all these  gift card sales will go directly into a fund to help the amazing cooks, servers, hosts and back-of-house who keep Mister A’s and Mille Fleurs running—and whose livelihoods hang in the balance during this current health crisis. Once the restaurants have reopened, purchased gift cards will be able to be used at either location. Gift cards can be purchased here.

In addition to offering takeout, Tahona founder Amar Harrag has set up an Indiegogo fundraiser page at indiegogo.com/projects/mezcal-love# where the community can help support Tahona employees through the purchase of merchandise and pre-sale mezcal and taco tasting experiences. Tahona will give 100% of the fundraiser’s proceeds to Tahona employees.

“At Tahona, we are family and when our family is in trouble, we do what we can to support them,” says Harrag. “Our commitment through these difficult times remains the same and with your support, we can limit the impact of this temporary closure. Supporting our staff is our biggest priority right now.”

Brittany Merrill-Yeng and Steven Yeng have launched a SKREW COVID-19 campaign.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Michelle Stansbury
Michelle Stansbury is a food enthusiast and the founder of Eat, Drink, Be SD, sharing the best restaurants, bars, and happenings in San Diego. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.
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