Lee Brian Schragera Backs The Food Industry During The Pandemic

The Editors | June 18, 2020 | People

The hospitality industry has been hard hit. How are you offering support?

In mid-March, when things really started to go crazy, I reached out to about 15 chefs—from Palm Beach to Miami— and asked: ‘What’s the most important thing?’ And unanimously everyone said that taking care of their employees was their priority.

The South Beach Wine & FoodFestival and Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality Industry Relief Fund launched with an initial donationof $1 million. That’s impressive.

I wanted to launch it in a big way. We used $500,000 from the proceeds of the festival and then I made a few calls to Bacardi USA, Badia Spices, the Estefans and Pitbull, and we raised the other $500,000.

How are you getting the funds to the people in need?

We set up a website where restaurant owners fill out an application. Less than a week to the date that we started the fund, we were able to start notifying applicants that they’d be receiving X amount of money as a direct deposit.

What do restaurants and bars represent for a community?

Foodbrings people together; it’s the common denominator. Not everyone’s into fashion, not everyone’s into sports, not everyone’s into ballet, but everyone eats. Food is the fabric of the community.

How will the hospitality industry look on the other side of this crisis?

It will be a long road to recovery, but I’m convinced people are always going to want to eat and support restaurants, and support their chefs and favorite bartenders. And I’m hopeful that when we get back on our feet, the industry will rise and the government and the legislature will pass bills ensuring that if this does happen again, these people are protected and covered.

Photography by: Courtesy of Lee Schranger