Rewards Network is pleased to announce the winners of the Restaurant Resilient $50K Giveaway! As a sign of appreciation for our industry, Rewards Network created the essay competition to give away $10,000 to five different restaurants. The goal was to provide some financial help to restaurants during the winter months, which is posing many challenges for restaurants facing restrictions due to COVID-19.
As part of our judging process, we set out to choose a geographically diverse set of winners, both customers and non-customers. Winners were chosen based on their answers to two essay questions:
- What do you think your restaurant means to your community?
- How would you use the $10,000?
We had hundreds of submissions and a committee of Rewards Network employees had a hard time choosing the award recipients, especially given the difficult circumstances so many restaurants are currently facing. While all of the entrants were certainly deserving of the money, we chose the five whose stories we found the most compelling.
And now, without further ado, here are the winners!
Wakin’ Bakin’, New Orleans, LA (Customer)
Conrad Chura created Wakin’ Bakin’ in 2010 to fill a neighborhood need for fresh, quality breakfast. It got its start as a delivery only “pop-up” restaurant in various shared kitchens before finding its current home in 2012. Today, the Wakin’ Bakin’ family includes sister restaurant Mother Mary’s, which serves late-night pub grub inside The Holy Ground Irish Pub, as well as a second Wakin’ Bakin’ location.
In addition to creating jobs in a certified HUBZone (historically underutilized business zone), Wakin’ Bakin’ also formed a partnership two years ago with their local Youth Works program, which works with at-risk youth between the ages of 16-24 in an apprenticeship-type program. The staff at Wakin’ Bakin’ helps teach program participants what it’s like to work in a professional environment, as well as what skills employers will likely expect from them.
Wakin’ Bakin’ was recently presented with the opportunity to play a larger role with Youth Works by joining the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL), which allows Youth Works to send candidates of their choice directly to the restaurant. Wakin’ Bakin’ plans to use the $10,000 to convert the dining room to a training area and cover other associated costs involved in partnering with Youth Works in a larger, more efficient manner.
Rhythm & Booze, Kansas City, MO (Customer)
Rhythm & Booze was founded in 2009 by owners Jenn and Rhythm Piatt, who each have worked in the service industry for more than 20 years. Rhythm & Booze was created to provide a clean dive bar with a fun and entertaining atmosphere. There are currently two locations in Kansas City and another in Shawnee, Kansas, as well as a night club called The BatCave @ Rhythm & Booze.
Jenn and Rhythm opened the first Rhythm & Booze with a dream of becoming a neighborhood staple. They credit their community with helping them succeed as they never had any backers involved in the restaurant, just a passion for creating a great bar experience for their customers.
Rhythm & Booze plans to use the $10,000 to keep their lights on, staff safe, and business running during these hard times. They had to shut the bar down once last year, but still continued to feed their staff and their families. Jenn and Rhythm want to be able to continue to be of help and service not only to their staff, but their customers as well.
Immigrant Food, Washington, D.C. (Customer)
Immigrant Food is D.C.’s first cause-casual restaurant. It was founded to take a stance against a new intolerance against immigrants in America. The food reflects how the founders see America at its core: diverse, nourishing, and welcoming. Immigrant Food partners with five local immigrant-service NGOs that work in the trenches to help the immigrant community, and donates their space for citizenship classes, English lessons, client meetings, or volunteer training. They also encourage customers to take action through an “Engagement Menu” where customers can donate, volunteer, or take part in advocacy initiatives — all inside the restaurant.
Throughout the pandemic, Immigrant Food doubled down on their mission to help immigrants and educate customers about immigration. Owner Tea Ivanovic plans to use the $10,000 to provide continuity to the restaurant’s mission during the difficult winter months in two important ways. First, they’ll keep jobs for staff who, in turn, provide meals to needy immigrants through partnerships with community organizations. Immigrant Foods has partnered with World Central Kitchen to prepare nearly 15,000 meals for Martha’s Table, 9/11 first responders, and feed election polling station workers. With local NGO Tables Without Borders, they’ve supported immigrant chefs, and donated meals to hospital workers and the immigrant community. Second, the grant will allow the restaurant to continue educating the community about immigration through their digital publication, The Think Table. Every month, they take on an immigration issue (DREAMers, Sanctuary Cities, Asylum, Farmworkers, etc.) and cut through the noise in clear English and hard numbers with videos, infographics, and articles with leading immigration experts.
Lucille’s, Houston, TX (Non-Customer)
Lucille’s is a locally owned Houston restaurant specializing in well-refined Southern cuisine with roots that stretch back almost a century. Co-founded in 2012 by brothers Chris and Ben Williams, the restaurant is a tribute to the culinary tradition begun by their great-grandmother, Lucille B. Smith, a culinary innovator who founded her own food corporation. Today, Executive Chef Chris Williams and Chef de Cuisine Khang Hoang pay homage to Lucille by replicating and embellishing on some of her most famous recipes to create innovative takes on Southern food classics.
Since the start of the pandemic, Lucille’s has retained 100% of their staff. They also started a nonprofit that has donated more than 80,000 meals to the local elderly population, who have been uniquely affected by the virus. In addition, the restaurant launched a bar pop-up program for closed bars, allowing them to take over Lucille’s cocktail menu and generating $42,000 — which went directly into the bartenders’ pockets. Lucille’s owners plan to use the prize money to continue their meal donation efforts.
Dharma’s, Capitola, CA (Customer)
Founded in 1981 as a fast food vegetarian restaurant, Dharma’s food is completely vegetarian and preservative-free. Their mission is to provide more options for people with dietary restrictions, including organic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free cuisine. Dharma’s offers a diverse menu — from simple healthy fare to complex international dishes, such as Thai, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Mediterranean, and American. They offer a relaxed, family dining atmosphere and have become a staple and hub in their community over their nearly four decades in business.
Bernard Shapiro and Yogesh Shapiro of Dharma’s say they will use the prize money to help pay employee wages; purchase food, produce, and supplies; and to keep the lights on and the stove flames lit. They added that this money will help Dharma’s continue to keep cooking and serving food, and keep their employees employed during the difficult winter months. In addition, they also plan to donate 10% of the $10,000 prize to local charities and nonprofits.
Be sure to regularly visit our free resource section dedicated to advising restaurants on how to navigate the changing rules and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.