Other restaurateurs around the country, facing a bleak outlook potentially lasting months and threatening their businesses, could take a page out of the playbook of chef David Nayfield, who has turned his trendy Divisadero restaurant Che Fico and its downstairs operation Che Fico Alimentari into a machine for feeding families in need.
Last week, as the coronavirus crisis and the ensuing shelter-in-place order sent the local restaurant world into a panic, Nayfield decided like many fine-dining chefs around the Bay to shut the doors of his restaurant indefinitely. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, an investor in the restaurant and current partner in Index Ventures Inc., reached to say, “What can I do to help?” And as Bloomberg reports, the offer inspired Nayfield, and subsequently other investors, to launch Che Fico Family Meal, as a way both to keep some of his employees on the payroll, and to feed people in need in a time of sudden crisis.
It was a quick pivot and just the kind of efficient, no-nonsense, “change the world” pitch that Silicon Valley responds to.
Nayfield soon secured $6,000 a night in donated funds for the first several weeks of the project, and additionally, the website allows regular San Franciscans to donate a single meal to someone else. Those with the means to order takeout can also order one of the nightly family meals — two appetizers, choice of meat or vegetarian entree, and dessert — for $50, and it serves two to three people, but they should do that buy phone at 415-416-6980 between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m. Those in need can sign up for free meals but must do so 48 hours in advance, and they’re going fast — the restaurant is now producing over 300 meal boxes per night.
The project has enabled Che Fico to keep its managers on the payroll and give work hours to ten kitchen staff and rotating dishwashers, while the rest of the staff is furloughed and receiving health benefits.
As Nayfield tells Eater, “People are in need, and people are able to give. It’s the community helping the community by jumping in when the government isn’t able to get its shit together. And I think that it really says a lot about the human beings that we have here.”
But the chef is also finding that this crisis highlights the major cracks in a broken. As he tells Bloomberg, “What this entire catastrophe should tell us is that we are putting way too much burden of cost on small business owners and not nearly enough support.”
Costolo echoes that in a tweet, calling this and other restaurant-by-restaurant staff fundraisers “drop in the bucket solutions.” But if every regular and fan of all these restaurants chipped in to help the staffs at their beloved spots, it would go a long way to seeing these people through the next several months.
(I fully understand these are drop in the bucket solutions and there are hundreds of restaurants/staff in trouble for every one i mention. I get it, but everybody who can afford to needs to step up again and again and again in advance of hoped for system-wide solutions)
— dick costolo (@dickc) March 23, 2020