Washington D.C. is missing its restaurants. We know you are all trying to do take-outs, delivery and gift cards, the best we can, but a new initiative, Save DC Eats, that takes it up a notch just launched this week and we were intrigued by the creativity and “there are things to look forward to after this is over” approach it takes. The concept features a chance for consumers to buy not just meals and gift cards but FUTURE EXPERIENCES (think Himitsu throwback dinners, cooking classes with Thip Kao, lamb roasts for 15….) that not only help you support your favorite bar or restaurant, plan your post-quarantine celebration, but also feel, inherently, like there is an other side of this.
We caught up with of Michelin Star chef, Chris Morgan (formerly Chef/Co-Owner at Maydan, opening Bammy’s this summer), who spearheaded the launch of Save DC Eatsto share with us the idea behind the concept in DC, as well joining forces with Philly, Baltimore, Minneapolis, etc. for this industry-wide movement.
header photo of Chris and Gerald by Jennifer Chase
What prompted the idea to create #SaveDCEats?
I left Maydan in November of last year with my business partner, and co-executive chef, Gerald Addison, to pursue opening our own restaurant together. We were two weeks out from disclosing our concept to the DMV and opening the doors when COVID-19 hit. We were devastated, as I am sure you can imagine. The main devastation was that our staff, most of whom left their old jobs to help us open, were left without work. Yes, the requirement to have been laid off to qualify had been lifted, allowing for some of our staff to be eligible for unemployment, however, this left all of our undocumented employees, who are the true backbone of our restaurants, without any options and/or hope for a sustainable way forward. My sister, Sara Morgan, and I were on the phone daily trying to figure out how to help them out. We were in the process of building a grassroots fundraiser for DC restaurants, when we were introduced by the amazing Debbie Shore, who is a co-founder of Share Our Strength and part of No Kid Hungry, to the team from Save Philly Eats. Specifically, I e-met with the founders, David Bookspan and Anthony Bucci, two terrific and selfless entrepreneurs of the Philly area, who built Save Philly Eats, with no skin in the game, and business of their own to run all the while, simply as a means to help save Philly restaurants and their staff! After connecting with them over a short zoom call, we became confident that our motives, goals and principles were aligned and I then became, once again thanks to them, the city team leader for Save DC Eats. With the help of my sister Sara, and recent additions on the social media front, Amanda Hoey of Wild Heart Media and Maya Oren of Mojalvo, we were able to launch last week with great success!
What do you think the long term impact may be for bars and restaurants – best and worst case scenario? What do you thnk needs to happen so we land on the best case scenario?
I am an eternal optimist but, having said that, given our current situation, I still fear for our restaurant community. I am hearing of restaurants closing every day and others that are struggling to make ends meet and stay cash flow positive. I am hopeful, however, that, if we continue to work together, we WILL get though this! The DCHC, or DC Hospitality Coalition, led by some close friends of mine, namely Tara Smith, Genevieve Villamora, Jill Tyler, among others, has been extremely helpful for me and for many others as a way to stay informed and stay involved. Their forum is one of several groups, like DC Central Kitchen and Erik Bruner Yang’s Power of 10, helping to bring people together right now when we need it more than ever before. We, with Save DC Eats, are looking to add the that! We are stronger together!!! The DMV is unlike any community I have every been lucky enough to be a part of and we are seeing its true colors now more than ever before!
How did restaurants get involved? What have some of the most creative offerings been?
I reached out to everyone who’s contact information I have and more. I dug up old event emails, fished through contacts on my phone, and cold called a few after visiting their websites, to try to see who I could get on board. I also reached out to certain individuals to help connect me with people/restaurants whose contact info I could not procure.
There are a ton of amazing offerings right now, and the number continues to grow. Here are a few:
- An exclusive Little Sesame dinner for 10
- A Himitsu throwback dinner for two hosted by Chef Kevin Tien
- A farm-to-table dining experience for 20 by Shilling Canning Company
- Emilie’s in-home dining experience for four
- A lamb roast for 15 people hosted by me + Gerald Addison
- In-home dining experience with American Son’s Tim Ma
Everyone is trying to organize and help right now, how is #SaveDCEats fitting into the landscape of ways people can support? How is it different than just ordering take-out/delivery or getting gift cards?
There are currently a good number of chefs/restaurants who have started GoFundMe pages and/or have found other ways to raise capital, ie gift cards, merchandise, etc. SaveDCEats offers an opportunity for us to list everything in the same place as well as encourage others to join with little effort involved. Once again, we are stronger together! Also, SaveDCEats is much more than just gift cards. Current offers range from zoom wine classes, to private in home experiential dinners, to chefs table experiences. A big part of our goal is to help the people of our community get through this tough time and giving them something to look forward to, ie a post quarantine celebration with friends and a badass chef in your kitchen, while also giving back is a win-win! Take-out/delivery models, which a lot of people, who weren’t already doing this pre COVID-19, are rolling out for the first time, are helping to keep some of our restaurants alive for now, but nobody knows how long this will last and how long WE, as a restaurant community, will last. SaveDCEats provides cash now for restaurants in need. This money, which they keep 100% of, can be used at their own discretion to help pay rent, utilities, unforeseen packaging costs for their new to-go models, or to pay their furloughed undocumented employees. We, at SaveDCEats, and SaveTheEats nationwide, do not touch the money. We leave it up the restaurants. Every chef/restaurant is in a different situation and we simply want to give them an extra chance of survival through the storm. Every dollar counts, so no matter how small someone’s contribution, it will be felt.
How has the response been so far?
The response thus far has been incredible, from chefs, restaurants, and the DMV community. We are already reaching back out to the restaurants who posted offers a short week ago, to see what else they can come up with because people ARE asking! People are looking for ways to give back right now, and this is a great way for people to do that! We are hoping, with more exposure, that more people will reach out to be featured on our site. Any bar, restaurant, bakery, brewery, wine bar, ice cream shop, etc can sign up! All we need is a point of contact, what you want to offer, a landing page, which we will help you set up through Eventbrite if you do not already have one, and your logo!
What our audience can do?
- Buy one of the experiences, dinners, or offers featured on this site.
- Brag about your purchase on social media using #savedceats (or just share the initative to help them spread the word)
- Share the site with your friends
- Forward https://savedceats.com/ to your hospitality industry friends to make sure they participate and get your support! (bonus: platforms are opening in Baltimore and Philly now too)
THANK YOU! Learn more at: savedceats.com/
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