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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

WCK Shares Chefs for Ukraine Update

World Central Kitchen Shares Chef for Ukraine Update

by David Klemt

Ukraine flag blowing in wind

World Central Kitchen has been on the ground helping refugees since Russia first invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

I mean that quite literally. In their video update, it was revealed that a WCK team arrived in Poland within hours of the invasion.

Maggie Leahy, director of donor relations at WCK, spoke with WCK CEO Nate Mook to share the details of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization’s #ChefsForUkraine campaign.

Mook shared that the WCK activated a fast-response team which is informally referred to as the Tip of the Spear. When the team arrived at the Poland-Ukraine border, they had gotten there so quickly that they weren’t certain what they’d find.

Assessment and Coordination

In fact, WCK wasn’t certain if their humanitarian efforts would even be needed. However, as we all know now, they certainly were in demand. The United Nations, as it turns out, wasn’t even on the ground yet.

Shockingly, Mook shared that WCK hadn’t encountered a crisis at the level of Ukraine’s invasion for many, many years.

For the past 12 years, WCK has responded to crises all over the world. From natural disasters like massive floods and earthquakes to, unfortunately, shootings and warzones, the humanitarian organization has provided nourishing meals for those displaced and in need.

So, assessing the situation in Ukraine quickly was of the utmost importance. Some refugees crossing the 24-hour pedestrian border at which the first WCK team had arrived hadn’t eaten a meal in two days.

Responding as fast and efficiently as possible, the organization connected with catering companies and local restaurants in Poland to feed those fleeing Ukraine.

However, that was simply a quick fix.

Systems in Place

Mook shared the following anecdote to explain WCK’s commitment to fast responses in its humanitarian efforts.

Chef José Andrés, who co-founded World Central Kitchen his wife Patricia, says that they’re the world’s largest non-governmental organization, or NGO. Going further, Chef Andrés says this is because they have chefs and restaurants around the world WCK can activate to respond to crises…even if those chefs and restaurants don’t know it now.

Getting the refugees crossing into Poland fed quickly was just one step to providing assistance. What WCK really specializes in is coordination and setting up systems, per Mook.

Speed is just one element of WCK’s humanitarian efforts. Reliability, consistency, accountability, and efficiency are the other keys.

Without systems in place, WCK simply wouldn’t be able to do what they do, which is provide nourishment, stability, and a sense of dignity to those in crisis.

Millions of Meals

Soon after arriving and setting up in Poland, WCK teams arrived in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Moldova, and Romania.

When refugees started heading west, WCK teams set up in Germany and Spain. And while it wasn’t clear initially if teams would be needed in Ukraine directly, WCK has indeed set up inside the war-torn country.

There are WCK teams serving and supporting people in communities hosting refugees, liberated Ukraine cities, and even cities under fire.

Currently, WCK’s mission is providing hundreds of thousands of fresh meals to those in need. The organization is also providing tens of thousands of meal kits.

WCK has provided a staggering amount of meals. As of June 22, the day Leahy and Mook provided the #ChefsForUkraine update, they’ve served more than 54 million meals in response to Ukraine’s invasion.

It’s results like that incredible amount of meals that inspire our continued support of WCK through our KRG Cares program. We encourage you to support WCK as well.

Image: Daria Volkova on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How Operators Can Support Ukraine

How Operators Can Support Ukraine

by David Klemt

Ukraine flag flying against blue sky, perspective shot

It’s normal to feel like there’s not much we can do as we watch in horror as Russia invades Ukraine, but there are ways to show support.

NATO alliance countries are struggling in their responses to Russia. A country with thousands of nuclear arms invaded a sovereign nation without such weapons. The response from NATO nations must be measured and de-escalate, not provoke. Consider that Russia seemingly threatened Sweden and Finland, and put its nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert.”

So, it’s understandable that the rest of us aren’t sure how much of a difference we can make.

However, restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality businesses do have the power to help.

Zirkova Vodka

John and Katherine Vellinga founded Zirkova Vodka around 2016. Initially, the brand was named Slava Vodka.

The Vellingas are Canadians. However, they consider Ukraine their home country. In fact, the two worked in Ukraine for about five years.

During their time in Ukraine, the two worked with brewers and winemakers. Over the course of those five years, John and Katherine decided to create an ultra-premium Ukrainian vodka.

It’s important to note, however, that Zirkova’s mission isn’t simply to create world-class vodka. You can read their full mission statement here.

In part, the brand’s mission statement reads: “Built in the DNA of the brand is a deep-rooted belief in the goodness of humanity, an abiding commitment to freedom and human rights for all.”

Zirkova’s foundation One+Together has raised money for human rights and humanitarian throughout Canada, Ukraine, and New York City.

Now, the brand is donating 100 percent of profits generated from sales of Zirkova at the LCBO to Ukrainian humanitarian funds.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by ZIRKOVA VODKA (@zirkovavodka)

It should also be noted that the province of British Columbia has banned the sale and import of Russian liquor products.

Donations

On the topic of donations, operators can support a number of charities that focus on helping the people of Ukraine.

For example, World Central Kitchen. WCK has already mobilized, setting up in Poland to help Ukrainians who have had to flea their homes.

The non-profit organization also has a relief team on the way to Romania as well. Donations to WCK can be made via this link.

If you have a question about the legitimacy of a charity, look it up on a site like Charity Navigator. Unfortunately, bad actors (scumbags) latch onto crises to scam people out of their money.

Rejecting Russian Vodka

Some restaurants and bars are making more assertive statements via the products they’re now willing to sell…or no longer sell.

There are restaurants and bars emptying their inventories of Russian vodkas by dumping them out.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Eric Gladstone (@ecgladstone)

The above post is just one example of operators, restaurant workers, and bar teams taking a stand.

In addition, there are operators seeking to add Ukrainian products to their menus. Will these businesses ever carry Russian products again? It’s far too early to tell, of course.

Individual operators will have to decide if refusing to sell Russian products is the right decision for them. If they choose that path, they’ll need to decide if doing so quietly or publicly is the best approach.

In simplistic terms, too many politicians and leaders are beholden to corporate money and influence. Realistically, as regards Putin, the opposite seems true.

Still, impacting the bottom lines of Russian companies, millionaires and billionaires may have some impact on Putin, though that’s unlikely to lead to peace any time soon.

Interestingly, reports indicate that at least two Russian billionaires have called for peace in Ukraine.

Safe Communities

It’s alarmingly easy for strong emotions to drive just about anyone to make harmful decisions. Fear, sorrow, frustration, and anger are powerful.

We must all remember something incredibly important: The Russian people are not to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One person—along with his inner circle of sycophants and enablers—is to blame: Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Feeling powerless to help the Ukrainian people can lead to feelings of anger. It’s crucial that we not allow violence or harassment of Russian people in our communities.

We can support Ukraine without harming Russian people. Restaurants and bars are pillars of their communities, and keeping people safe is non-negotiable.

Some of us may react to feelings of anger, fear, and frustration by lashing out. We can’t let that lead to violence in our streets.

Do not tolerate harassment or violence in or around your business, and make it clear your business is safe for all guests. The last thing we need now is more divisiveness, harm or fear.

Image: Daria Volkova on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants?

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants or Bars?

by David Klemt

Abandoned bar or restaurant

The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House last Friday without the inclusion of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act.

For those keeping count—me, for instance—the RRF Replenishment Act has seen zero movement since June.

We’re now six months without RRF Replenishment progress. The RRF application portal closed on May, 24.

To put it bluntly, the House once again failed our industry.

Of the $1.7 trillion dollars in the Build Back Better Act, zero are earmarked to replenish the RRF.

Applicants in Limbo

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are at least 177,000 RRF applicants awaiting grants.

Unless the RRF is replenished, those applicants will receive nothing.

For six months now, two bills seeking $60 billion to replenish the RRF have languished. Those bills are the aforementioned RRF Replenishment Act and the ENTREE Act.

The former was introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced the latter.

Unfortunately, the chance to replenish the RRF via a unanimous consent motion was shot down in August. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to $43 billion in emergency funding, killing the RRF.

At this point, it’s difficult to take any statement of support for our industry from members of Congress seriously.

NRA Speaks Out

The same day that the Build Back Better Act passed, NRA vice president Sean Kennedy released a statement.

“We are disappointed that the House passed the Build Back Better Act without including the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act… Passing this bill without including RRF replenishment leaves thousands of small business restaurants teetering on the brink of closure,” reads Kennedy’s statement.

Kennedy also points to specific elements of the Build Back Better Act that can cause further harm to operators and our industry.

In particular, Kennedy states that the NRA “specifically asked Congress to not pass any legislation that would harm restaurants as they rebuild.” Instead, the Build Back Better Act imposes new taxes on small businesses, including restaurants and bars.

Per Kennedy, “this bill newly applies the net investment income tax (NIIT) to active business income for pass-through businesses.”

Read Kennedy’s statement in full here.

It’s possible that the Senate will make changes to the bill. And it’s possible that replenishing the RRF will be among those changes. If that happens, the bill will be sent back to the House, further delaying the crucial assistance our industry needs.

Oh, and the deadline to avoid a government shutdown is December 3.

To tell your lawmakers to replenish the RRF, click here. I know I’ve asked you to do this several times. As frustrating as it’s getting, we need to stick together and keep up the pressure.

Image: Wokandapix from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

We Need to Join Forces on the RRF

We Need to Join Forces on the RRF

by David Klemt

The United States Capitol Building with blue sky and white clouds in the background

It’s time for all hospitality professionals to come together and tell Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Honestly, it’s well beyond time for us to all join forces and send our message to Congress.

Owners, operators, managers, and team members need to contact their representatives. Additionally, they need to encourage their friends and family members to do the same.

If we’re going to stop the damage to our industry, this needs to be done.

State of the RRF

Per this download from the National Restaurant Association, 455,304 eligible restaurants applied for RRF grants.

In total, 278,304 restaurants were awarded grants.

To be fair, that’s excellent news. And the Small Business Administration should be applauded for providing lifelines to nearly 280,000 restaurants.

However, the $28.6 billion the fund was seeded with was never going to be enough. Also, the SBA’s RRF portal was open nowhere near long enough.

Toward the end of May, Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. In it, they criticize the SBA for closing the portal so quickly.

To provide context, the RRF application portal was open a mere 21 days. Further context: the SBA made it clear before the RRF portal was opened that only priority applications would be processed for the first 21 days.

Replenish the RRF

According to the NRA, 177,000 eligible RRF applicants were not awarded grants.

That number represents a total of $43.6 billion in grants that haven’t been awarded.

So, not only does the SBA need to reopen the RRF, they need to replenish it with at least $43.6 billion. The NRA is asking that Congress refill the RRF with $50 billion.

We all know that the situation is dire. Per the NRA, 1.3 million jobs have been lost. Since the first 14 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, restaurants have lost $290 billion in sales. Obviously, that number has grown. At least 90,000 restaurants have either closed their doors long-term or forever.

However, this isn’t only about our industry. As the NRA shows, every dollar spent on this industry generates $2 for farming, baking, fishing, and other industries.

Looking at the numbers makes it clear: We all need to carve out the few minutes it will take to tell our representatives what we want.

What do we want? For the RRF to be replenished. Click here to tell Congress to replenish the RRF with at least $50 billion, and make sure to spread this message on social by using #ReplishRRF.

There are millions and millions of us in this industry. Now more than ever, we need to join forces and pull in the same direction.

Image: Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

by David Klemt

Wad of dollar bills with red rubber band

The “tale of the tape” of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund tells a clear story: the RRF needs an injection of tens of billions of dollars.

Clearly, $28.6 was nowhere near enough to award every eligible restaurant and bar with a grant.

In fact, the RRF would need at least another $50 billion to serve all eligible applicants.

The Numbers

First, the Small Business Administration is to be commended for setting up the RRF portal, making the application process clear, and handling applications well.

However, there’s one glaring issue with the RRF and the review and awards process. I’ll get to that in the next section.

Per the National Restaurant Association, more than 362,000 applications were submitted via the RRF portal.

In total, the applications add up to $75 billion in grant requests. Again, the RRF was funded by the government with $28.6 billion. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the fund was severely underfunded.

Controversy

Last week, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. The gist of their message was that the RRF’s closure was premature. Therefore, the group concluded, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or even have the opportunity to apply for grants.

In the letter, which can be reviewed here, the authors also took shots at Democrats, the Biden Administration, and undocumented immigrants.

Setting politics aside, the announcement of the RRF’s portal closure was inarguably premature. The application process was first opened on Monday, May 3. For the first 21 days, the SBA announced that while all eligible entities could apply, only priority applicants would be processed and awarded grants.

However, the RRF portal closed to applications on Monday, May 24…21 days after it first opened. The members of Congress who penned the letter to the SBA have a point: the SBA closed the RRF portal after only operating within the priority window.

Now What?

There’s no other way to put this: The RRF needs more funding.

Essentially, it needs twice the funding it had when it was first seeded. There’s zero guarantee that Congress will address this matter, but at least a handful of lawmakers are aware of the dire situation.

Two weeks ago, the NRA launched a petition urging the government to replenish the RRF. Of course, the RRF also needs to be reopened for applications, and the application process needs to be open to all eligible applicants.

There’s no promise the petition will achieve the desired result but we must do something. Click here to sign the petition and tell Congress the RRF needs to be replenished and reopened.

Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tobin Ellis and Barmagic’s Relief Dashboard Contains Hundreds of Restaurant and Bar Resources

Tobin Ellis and Barmagic’s Relief Dashboard Contains Hundreds of Restaurant and Bar Resources

by David Klemt

In keeping with this week’s focus on good news, KRG Hospitality would like to shine a light on Barmagic’s Bar & Restaurant Revival Guide.

First, some background.

Tobin Ellis founded Barmagic of Las Vegas in 1997. He’s done so much for the hospitality industry that it feels almost criminal to just attach a few labels to describe him, but here we are.

Ellis is a hospitality industry innovator, advocate, designer, marketer and consultant. Anyone who has ever attended an hospitality trade show and sat in on a presentation, panel or Q&A session featuring him knows he’s passionate, quick-witted, real-world solution-oriented, and doesn’t suffer pretenders lightly.

He’s also more than put in the work to for the recognition he deserves as an industry icon. Ellis has been in the trenches for decades, beginning his hospitality journey washing dishes in upstate New York. He has worked around the world in essentially every type of venue, from sleepy dives to hyperkinetic high-volume cocktail bars, and everything in between.

A few years back, Perlick partnered with Ellis to create the Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station. This innovative hardware was designed with ergonomics in mind, focusing on improving bar team member’s physical comfort and safety.

Since restaurants and bars found themselves fully in the devastating and nearly inescapable grip of the pandemic, Ellis has focused on the health and longevity of the industry as a whole.

To help operators navigate the pandemic and the myriad challenges (again, a criminal label for what operators and workers have been facing for almost 12 months) it continues to present, Ellis added a Hospitality Relief dashboard to the Barmagic website.

Visitors will find hundreds of links for US- and Canada-based resources, including a relief map for those who need aid or who want to donate to relief efforts. There’s also a link to the Barmagic Bar & Restaurant Revival Guide, a 96-page download loaded with information and ideas that Ellis hopes “might just spark a thought or two” in the minds of restaurant and bar owners, operators, leaders and workers.

We’re not going to get through this if we don’t come together, save as many businesses as possible, and help new venues open and flourish. We applaud the Barmagic relief resources—more like this, please.

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