Celebrity restaurateur Guy Fieri knew he could not just stand by and watch the coronavirus pandemic flatten one of the two industries that have made him a household name.
The “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host, along with roughly 50 companies, partnered with the National Restaurant Association to launch the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, raising nearly $25 million to help food service employees offset devastating COVID-19 losses.
“You know, so many people work in the restaurant industry in multiple jobs, second jobs, single moms, single parents, students, retirees. And the restaurant industry is massively important to our communities,” Fieri told CBS News.
In turn, he said when he “saw this coming,” he knew cold, hard cash was the only thing that could help those who were hurting.
“There was a story that was said to me about someone saying, ‘I live in a building with a bunch of people who work in the service industry, and none of us have any money. I don’t even have anyone I can borrow money from because nobody I know has any money.’ When you start hearing those kinds of things ... there’s nothing more important,” Fieri told the network.
All told, the relief fund has distributed $500 grants to 43,000 restaurant workers nationwide, nearly 60% of whom were women and half of whom were people of color.
Meanwhile, 80% of those workers who received grants through the organization reported that their annual household income was less than $50,000, while 90% said that they would use the funds to cover housing, utility, transportation or childcare expenses, Food & Wine reported.
Fieri told CBS News that he knows the funds are reaching the intended recipients because he’s heard from some of them personally, such as the young restaurant manager who flagged him down between “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” locations.
“She came to me and said, ‘You know, I got the money.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s so awesome.’ She said, ‘The money was great, but it was just awesome to know that people I don’t even know care about how I’m doing.’ And I was like, ‘Man, that’s the whole reason we did this,’” Fieri said.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fieri recently signed a new three-year deal with Food Network to continue filming both “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and “Guy’s Grocery Games,” while also adding a second season of “Tournament of Champions.”
More coronavirus pandemic coverage:
Cox Media Group