It’s Time to Serve Those Who Have Served Us

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By: Lee Brian Schrager, Founder and Director, SOBEWFF®

The hospitality industry, specifically restaurants and bars, has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and Miami is no exception. This community consists of individuals who have served us for countless years, a community that has cultivated a vibrant and eclectic culinary scene across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties—drawing not only locals, but also flocks of tourists from all over the world. If we want this incredible community to return to its once thriving state and be there for us as it always was, we have to be there for it now. These chefs, servers, hosts, managers, bartenders, dishwashers, and bussers—so many of whom are now jobless—are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives and friends. They must not, and will not, be forgotten amid this crisis.

So what can you do to help support the industry locally?

In addition to ordering takeout and delivery from your favorite local restaurants and buying gift cards from local restaurants and bars that can be used in the future, there’s one more thing you can do—make a donation to the SOBEWFF® & FIU Chaplin School Hospitality Industry Relief Fund. The Fund, recently launched by The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®), was created to provide immediate financial support to independently owned and operated restaurants and bars impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

It was kicked off with an initial $1 million, including a founding donation of $500,000 from the Festival’s benefiting charity, Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, along with significant additional financial support from Founding Partners Bacardi USA, Badia Spices, Luxco, Mast-Jagermeister US, Shaw-Ross International Importers and Voli 305 Vodka.

Grants are being provided to independently owned and operated restaurants and bars that have had to temporarily cease operations, lay off employees, or whose businesses have been severely diminished due to locally mandated closure orders. The financial aid makes it possible for those owners to provide continuity of compensation and other benefits to employees who have been furloughed, laid off, or whose incomes have been significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fund is initially supporting the hundreds of restaurants and bars that have participated in SOBEWFF® anytime over the past five years. After that community has been served and as the Fund continues to collect donations to finance local relief efforts, it will expand support to any independently owned and operated restaurant or bar in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach county that has been negatively impacted by COVID-19-related shutdowns.

In just a week and a half’s time since the Fund’s launch, applications from 500 restaurants have been received, and 175 grants have been awarded, totaling nearly $1 million. As more applications continue to pour in, more donations will be required to meet the growing need of our local restaurant and bar community.

“You have no idea how good this makes me feel that we can pay out our last payroll, which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of this grant,” shared Ortanique on the Mile Chef Cindy Hutson upon receiving a grant from the Fund for her employees.

“I truly can’t properly put into words how very much this means to us, but we are beyond grateful for your support and generosity to our industry during these very difficult times,” said Chef Lindsay Autry of The Regional Kitchen & Public House. “This will give such an incredible amount of peace of mind to our team.”

Fund recipient Chef Richard Plasencia of the Twisted Fork Kitchen said, “Thank you so much. Having one less week to worry about payroll is a huge relief right now.”

These are just a few examples of local restaurants that are now better equipped to weather this turbulent storm. Yet there are still hundreds more in great need of financial support, many of which will depend on it in order to stay in business.

If there’s ever been a time to help our local community, it’s now. Post shutdowns, quarantines and social distancing, we all want to be able to return to a city filled with open restaurant doors and shining faces waiting to greet us. Making that dream a reality is possible.

To donate to the SOBEWFF® & FIU Chaplin School Hospitality Industry Relief Fund, or to apply for a relief grant, visit