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Restaurateur and Food Network personality Guy Fieri says he has raised $20 million-plus in donations for the benefit of out-of-work restaurant employees who are stuck at home because of state lockdown orders.
As a result, about 40,000 jobless workers in the restaurant industry across the country have received or have been approved for $500 grants each, celebrity chef Fieri told TMZ.
He launched the effort, known as the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, partnering with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The fund, which has only been in operation for less than two months, has received about 60,000 applications from those suffering hardship as a result of shuttered restaurants. As yet unacted-upon applications for the one-time grant are apparently currently being reviewed to determine if they meet the prescribed eligibility criteria.
To raise cash, Fieri said he sent personal video invitations that requested donations from “all the heavy hitter CEOs that are involved in the restaurant business” such as Pepsi, Coke, Uber Eats, and other major corporations involved in the food or hospitality industries.
“I started thinking about my brothers and sisters in the restaurant business, and a bunch of restaurants that I was closing — we gotta do something,” he explained (see video clip below). He added that the program will continue as long as the donations keep flowing in. Fieri owns three California restaurants.
Fieri, who acquired the nickname “Mayor of Flavortown” along the way, also strongly encouraged consumers to continue to place orders for takeout and delivery as a way to help restaurants stay in business and at least cover their basic expenses such as the electric bill and their commercial insurance premiums.
As far as what might happen pursuant to the gradual reopening of the economy, he suggested that family-owned restaurants might have an easier time ramping up, but the recovery of larger restaurants may face more logistical challenges than mom-and-pop locations.
Fieri did express optimism for the restaurant sector generally, however, one the quarantine ends.
“Just looking and listening and hearing what going on, I think people are going to be fired up, gung ho and ready to get out there and visit their restaurants a lot more than they were prior to the pandemic.”
Assisted perhaps by his over-the-top personality and hair, Guy Fieri became one of the few breakout headliners who was able to become a permanent TV fixture after winning The Next Food Network Star cooking competition. His TV career took off from there and has become a ubiquitous host on the Food Network for series such as the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives roadshow and Guys’ Grocery Games.
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