Our food industry folks are as kind as they are resilient

Local restaurants and businesses do what they can to help community members amid their own struggles.
Chef in the kitchen

The current times are strange and stressful. With the devastating effect of a global pandemic continuing to run its course, hope has seemed scarce at times.

But hope has come in the form of so many acts of kindness performed by people working tirelessly to help others during this time.

In the Madison community alone, local companies have adapted despite storefront closures, they’ve set up recovery funds for others, they’ve donate money, prepare food for health care workers and so much more. Here are some ways that local restaurants and other food industry businesses are trying to pay it forward.

MACN Cooks for the Frontline
Launched today, the “Help a Hero, Save a Restaurant” fund is raising money to allow area restaurant chefs to provide 100 warm meals a day to frontline staff at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital. Coordinated by the Madison Area Chef’s Network and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, the initiative will involve a different chef each week day who will “up the game” on creating a delicious meal for health care workers. The fund’s $10,000 goal is two-fold: help keep restaurants in business while feeding frontline workers who might not have the time or energy to cook a meal for themselves. Donate to the fund here.

Discount for Health Care Workers
Since March 16, Sweet Home Wisconsin has offered a 50% discount for those who work in health care, and has provided more than $1,500 in discounts as of April 3. In a similar effort to support health care workers, the restaurant has accepted and matched donations for a fund for medical facilities to use for food orders to feed the frontline COVID-19 staff. The amount of public donations as of April 8 was around $1,800, and the total amount after Sweet Home Wisconsin matched those contributions was around $3,600. Visit the restaurant website here to donate.

Kessenich’s Creates SOS Fund
Kessenich’s Ltd., a Madison-based restaurant and commercial kitchen supply store, launched the S.O.S. Save Our Staff Fund, which is raising money to help servers, bartenders and back-of-the-house employees who depend on tips from customers for the majority of their income. One hundred percent of your donation to the fund (which is sponsored by Madison Magazine, channel3000.com, News 3 Now and TVW) goes directly to Madison workers. Donate here. Also, check out this knife/skillet giveaway below that supports the Madison SOS Fund as well as the Milwaukee SOS Fund.


Gift Cards for a Good Cause
Patrick O’Halloran and Michael Banas, the owners of both Lombardino’s and Tipsy Cow, are helping the community with the Eat Well Do Good campaign. Special edition gift certificates are on sale to be redeemed at Lombardino’s, Tipsy Cow Downtown or Tipsy Cow Sun Prairie. Half of the money from every special gift certificate purchased is donated to the Dane County COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery Fund. To buy a gift card and reinvest in the community, visit this website.

Donations to Dine Again
Tom Anderson, owner of Buck & Honey’s, made the tough decision to close down both of his restaurants several weeks ago due to COVID-19. Even with the closure, though, Anderson didn’t want to sit and wait for this to pass. He wanted to do what he could to help others during this time.“We had two restaurant kitchens full of food,” said Anderson. “We felt we needed to help our staff, so we sent groceries home with them to feed their families. But then we wanted to help a few local organizations knowing they were going to be hard-hit during the Safer-at-Home order.” Buck & Honey’s was able to provide meal donations to Tellurian, Inc., The River Food Pantry, Sunshine Place and The Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry. Anderson has also been selling gift cards online, and has been donating half of those sales to his staff directly since they have not been able to work. But on April 22, part of the Buck & Honey’s staff was back in the kitchens as both locations reopened for delivery and curbside pick up, and will be doing so seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. “Our limited staff is ready to get back to work, and we are thrilled to be able to make that happen in this capacity,” said Anderson. “We still long for the day to bring back our entire team to work.”

Fair to the Furloughed
Fairchild Restaurant was only open for a few weeks before it had to shut down its dining room due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the new restaurant is still up and running with a modified menu for takeout and the support of the Madison community. “We got a card along with a takeout order from one of the neighborhood people, and the card read, ‘I really want you to stay in the neighborhood so I’d like to pay for my dinner for the soft opening,’” said Itaru Nagano, one of the chefs and owners at Fairchild. “It came with $100. It really touched me a lot — and we decided to put the money into the tip pool for our employees.” Even amidst all of the chaos that the local business scene is currently experiencing, the new restaurant is finding ways to give back. On March 29, Fairchild hosted a service industry day. Free tacos were provided for service industry workers, and while tips were not expected, all tips were evenly shared with the restaurant’s furloughed employees.

Image of pink juice drink from Saints Madison Joice Co.

“This Citrus Just Got Real” is the new fundraising juice from Saints Madison Juice Co. The label pictured will not be the same received because of quick turnaround, but the beverage tastes delicious as normal. (Photo courtesy of Saints Madison Juice Co.)

A Service Industry-Supporting Sip
A new ginger-lime(aid) from Saints Madison Juice Co. called “This Citrus Just Got Real” acts as an anti-inflammatory and boosts immunity, but it is also providing aid for those in the service industry. The beverage is made from donated or purchased produce from local restaurants and bars to help reduce food waste, and includes ginger, lime, filtered water, agave and beetroot. Saints is donating all proceeds from this juice to service workers in the food industry who have lost wages due to restaurant and bar closures, and is also accepting donations to add to the proceeds. Saints is currently operating like many other area restaurants with a condensed menu and options for delivery or pickup. Order online here or by phone. 608-628-2990

Food Fight
Food Fight, Madison’s locally owned and operated restaurant group, is the unit behind many area restaurants we know and love. While some restaurants like Bar Corallini and Cento continue to operate and adapt to circumstances, others like Fresco, Johnny Delmonico’s Steakhouse and The Coopers Tavern are temporarily closed (for a full list of operating locations, click here.) But like many local operations, Food Fight proposed an initiative to aid those our communities depend on. On the Food Fight website, you can donate to fund breakfast and lunch care packages for frontline workers of the COVID-19 crisis. Breakfast packages include hot breakfast sandwiches, wraps or burritos and freshly brewed coffee for $95, and lunch packages include individually wrapped meals and homemade cookies for $115. Each package feeds 10 people who are working in hospitals, medical clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies, civil service offices or police and fire stations. Donations also provide work for Food Fight restaurant employees. To donate money for meal packages, click here.

Madison Virtual Tip Jar
Perhaps you read about the virtual tip jar in one of our recent articles, but if not, here’s a brief description: By going to this website, you can individually support Madison service employees at a restaurant of your choosing. The website randomizes employees so you can help someone who needs it without going through the entire list of workers. If you are a service worker, there’s an online form for you to sign up to receive donations to help you through these challenging times.

Pay It Forward With Soup
A cup of soup at Liliana’s costs $5, and you can pay another $5 if you want to purchase a soup for someone who needs it next. Through a Give-A-Soup-Donation, you can provide a variety of soups – Rueben, chicken noodle, beer cheese, and vegetable and mushroom – to someone who might need the meal. There is also a tab under the online takeout menu for donations to help John, a volunteer who has been delivering Liliana’s food to where it is needed but currently needs vehicle repairs in order to continue helping. Donate a soup on Liliana’s online menu.

A Few More Good Deeds:

One Barrel Brewing Co.
The taproom at One Barrel Brewing Co. is currently closed, but you can still support taproom workers. One hundred percent of gift card purchases and any gratuities go directly to the staff at One Barrel Brewing Co. while the bar is closed. 608-630-9286

Blue Plate Catering
Through its Feed the Front Lines initiative, Blue Plate Catering is encouraging Madison community members to purchase a meal for frontline workers. You can place and pay for your order on the Blue Plate website, and the catering service will provide the meal.

Plain Spoke Cocktails and Mint Mark
Friday night fish fry is still up and running through Mint Mark, and a few weeks ago, Plain Spoke cocktails dropped off some canned Old Fashioneds for customers to enjoy with their takeout. At $5 a can, all of the proceeds from the beverages went toward the Mint Mark staff relief fund. Anyone can still donate to the fund through the Mint Mark to-go portal found here.

Rare Steakhouse
Even if you don’t plan on using a gift card from Rare Steakhouse until the restaurant reopens its doors, gift card purchases are helping the wait staff now. All tips and 20% of every gift card sale are going straight to Rare Steakhouse’s staff relief fund. Purchase a gift card here.