Houston Hospitality Industry Helps to Feed Food Servers

A waitress is holding a tray with dirty dishes and leftover food. Waitress cleaning the table in a restaurant. The concept of service.
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Houston’s hospitality industry has been working overtime to feed those who work around the clock to feed Houston.

Due to the thousands of bar and restaurant workers left unemployed, Houston’s hospitality industry is stepping up to feed food servers who have lost their livelihoods due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s heartbreaking what’s going on,” Riel restaurant chef/owner Ryan Lachaine told the Houston Chronicle. “The majority of them lost their jobs overnight. Things need to get done right now. Folks are in trouble now. We need to step up today and do something.”

Riel was one of many restaurants that shifted gears, and turned itself into a carryout spot for free takeaway dinners for restaurant employees who lost their jobs.

The restaurant launched the Houston arm of the Restaurant Workers Relief Program on Saturday, which is based in several other cities and prepares hundreds of to-go meals for restaurant workers who have had their work hours reduced or cut altogether.

While Riel is signed on to stay with the project for ten days, Lachaine said he wants to get more food to keep feeding workers beyond that period of time.

“We’re going to do it until someone tells us to stop. Or until things get better,” he said.

Another initiative that helps furloughed and laid-off restaurant workers, called Houston Shift Meal, funds local restaurants to prepare meals for these unemployed workers.

Workers who take part in Houston Shift Meals range from McDonald’s employees to employees at more upscale dining restaurants. Houston Shift Meals accepts any donations from anyone who wishes to help, and each restaurant preparing meals that day gets $250 to make 60-75 meals. Workers in need sign up through the Houston Shift Meals Facebook page.

At least six restaurants have joined the Houston Shift Meal partnership, and the organization is working to add more partners.

“All of our restaurant partners are so happy and so willing to be part of this,” Jonathan Beitler, a media relations specialist who founded Houston Shift Meals, said. “We’re not asking for them to do anything free. It’s an opportunity to help out their own.”

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