Main content starts here, tab to start navigating

Relief Funds

You can support independent restaurant and bar staff by donating to relief funds. For example, please consider giving to Southern Smoke or the The LEE Initiative today. Read more below about both organizations.

Southern Smoke

"Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015 after learning his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, Southern Smoke has donated $763,000 to the MS Society, making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.

In 2017, the Southern Smoke Foundation raised and distributed more than half a million dollars to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey. Recognizing a need, the Southern Smoke Foundation immediately created a national Emergency Relief Fund for people in the food and beverage industry in crisis. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund has distributed $4,564,498 to 2,289 people nationwide.

To date, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $6.2 million—both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry. As founder Chris Shepherd says, Southern Smoke was created to 'take care of our own.'"

Image 2 credit: Catchlight Photography

Image 5 credit: Robert Jacob Lerma

The LEE Initiative

"The LEE Initiative stands for Let’s Empower Employment. The mission of the The LEE Initiative is to bring more equality and diversity in the restaurant industry through work programs and continuing education.

Since March, The LEE Initiative has served meals to over a million families in need. Due to the closure of restaurants across America during the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of restaurant workers had an urgent need for assistance. Independent restaurants are at the center of the vibrant growth in America. For the past decade, we have relied on the convivial and dynamic hospitality of the independent restaurant scene to make this a city that we are incredibly proud of. Restaurant workers need your help more than ever. It is vital that we offer relief to those in need, so after this crisis restaurants can return to their full vibrancy. 

In partnership with Maker’s Mark and Audi, we turned restaurants across the country into relief centers with local chefs for any restaurant worker who has been laid off or has had a significant reduction in hours and/or pay. We offered help for those in need of food and supplies. Each night, we packed hundreds of to-go meals that people picked up to take home for them and their families. 

Thanks to all of our generous partners who have helped us run relief kitchens across the country, we have given out over one million meals and thousands of pounds of supplies while restaurants were closed due to COVID.

Over the course of these efforts, supply chain issues became painfully apparent across the nation. As restaurants around the country re-open their doors, we are shifting our partnerships to focus on creating and maintaining long-term relationships between restaurants and small, sustainable farms. We hope this new program, Restaurant Reboot, will play a role in creating the new approach to food we see emerging across the country. 

Thank you to everyone who has made this possible and will continue to help us support the restaurant industry."