Help from restaurant industry pours into Texas, Louisiana's flooded areas

| by Cherryh Cansler
Help from restaurant industry pours into Texas, Louisiana's flooded areas

Updated: 2 p.m. Sept. 1, 2017

Restaurant workers have long held a reputation for taking care of one another. Whether it's ranging from small one-on-one efforts — raising funds to help a co-worker receive medical treatment, for example —  or stepping up when disaster strikes to help entire cities and countries, the industry is known to lend a helping hand.

The recent flooding in Texas and Louisiana is no exception. While we don't yet understand the full devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, at least 37 people have died and thousands have been displaced — their homes and businesses destroyed.

Experts, according to NBC News, are trying to calculate the flood damage, but the range is wide. Re-insurer Hannover Re, for example, predicted a cost of $3 billion on insured losses, while Accuweather expected the damage to have a $190 billion impact on the economy.

Several industry organizations around the nation, are doing whatever they can to help. That includes The Louisiana Restaurant Association, The Commander's Family of Restaurants and the Greater New Orleans Foundation, which have joined forces to launch the Hurricane Harvey Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, a community foundation that manages many different charitable funds.
"After Hurricane Katrina, the Houston community was there for New Orleans and we'll never forget it," Ti Martin of Commander's Family of Restaurants, said in a company press release. " Alex Brennan Martin, along with the LRA, started the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund and it raised and distributed more than $1 million in small grants to help individuals in New Orleans. Today, we are returning the favor."

Criteria is being established to award individual grants, and the HERF will donate to restaurant and hotel workers who are in a position of hardship during the recovery period, according to a press release from the LRA. The partnership will work with the Texas Restaurant Association to help award grants through its Greater Houston Restaurant Association.  

Below are a variety of other brands and vendors helping the cause.

Salata, based in Houston, opened one location Wednesday to feed first responders for free. Today, all Houston-area locations are providing free meals to uniformed first responders through Monday, according to an interview with FastCasual.

Although a number of Chipotle's restaurants have been closed due to the flooding, many are reopening, Chipotle's Director of Commnications, Chris Anderson, told FastCasual.

"Clearly, our priorities to reopen will be to ensure that the building is safe and that it's safe for employees and customers to get into the area," he said. The company, which has made a cash donation to the Red Cross and is also feeding volunteers today staffing a Red Cross telethon, is also taking care of its employees.

"All of our employees will be paid for work they miss due to closures, so they won't be out there," Anderson said. "We are also working with any individual employees who were impacted by this on a case by case basis to provide additional assistance where needed."

Lastly, Chipotle is delivering more than 50,000 pounds of food to relief organizations, which will feed people in shelters. The chain has already sent food to the Houston Convention Center, to San Antonio,  where it is being routed to smaller shelters in that city, and to the Houston Children's Hospital.

"Some of that delivery is complete, some of it is still in process as transportation logistics are complicated by flooding. Those deliveries include chicken, tortillas lettuce, tomatoes, beans, steak, bottled water and other food items," Anderson said.

'Love is Comin' at Ya' Houston via Little Caesars

Like Melba Moore sang back in the '80s, "Love's comin' at ya" Houston. In this case though it's a whole Love Kitchen, courtesy Little Caesars and its big-rig pizza kitchen that's been touring the last 30 years to help out three million homeless, hungry and displaced families all over the country.

The chain is sending the truck to San Antonio first on Saturday, Sept. 2, to feed victims and emergency personnel working at and affected by the storm and flooding, according to a news release. The truck has traveled throughout the country as part of the community support programs with Little Caesars. 

In San Antonio, the Love Kitchen will park at the Freeman Coliseum, where Little Caesars franchisees and volunteers will serve pizza to up to 1,200 emergency response workers, until at least Monday, Sept. 4. Love Kitchen will then coordinate with other relief organizations to determine the best locations for the unit, maintaining continued and consistent support for the residents affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

Little Caesars franchisees are supporting assistance efforts by supplying staff and services from their stores to man the truck, as well monetary donations to support the operation of the Love Kitchen.

"In the wake of the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, we must all come together as a company to support relief efforts," said. "We are proud to work together with our local franchisees and company-owned stores to coordinate the vehicle, staff and food and to be there for the people in Texas when they need it most. 

"With a disaster of this magnitude, we are all in this together and we're in it for the long haul," Little Caesars President and CEO Dave Scrivano said in the release.

The Love Kitchen has previously supported victims and emergency personnel at events like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Sandy, the 2001 World Trade Center Attack, and recently, the wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. All this work is accomplished with the support of Little Caesars franchisees who have volunteered their time in local communities.




Whataburger pledged Thursday an additional $1 million to the Whataburger Family Foundation to help its impacted employees with necessities like clothing, food, medical bills and monetary assistance, according to a company press release.

The chain is also donating $150,000 to the Red Cross and $500,000 to local food banks to be deployed in the areas of greatest need.

"To all our family members and neighbors who were impacted by this storm's devastation, we stand with you. The path to recovering and rebuilding is long, but we're here for you and we'll get through this together," said Whataburger Chairman Tom Dobson.

Today the company pledged an additional $1 million to the Whataburger Family Foundation to help our impacted employees with necessities like clothing, food, medical bills and monetary assistance.

The Whataburger Family Foundation provides emergency assistance to Whataburger Family Members who are experiencing an unforeseen financial hardship. Operating since 2001, the Whataburger Family Foundation pools together donations from the company, employees, franchisees and suppliers. The funds are then used for scholarships and to assist employees and impacted families.

In addition, to serve our neighbors in need, Whataburger is donating $150,000 to the Red Cross, and another $500,000 to local food banks to be deployed in the areas of greatest need.

The company stopped making beer Monday in an effort to make more than 100,000 cans of drinking water at its Cartersville, Georgia-based facility. The company delivered the cans to the Red Cross' Baton Rouge location.

The Big Salad in Richmond
The Big Salad in Richmond, 20400 Southwest Hwy., is serving free meals from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday.

The store will collect donations for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief provided by the American Red Cross, however, no donation is required to receive a free salad, sandwich or soup.

"What happened here is an unfathomable disaster. People here are hurting and they're hungry," Franchisee Mauro Forastieiri said in a company press release. "We want people to come and share a meal together — on us, if only to give them a break from the challenge of rebuilding their lives."

The Big Salad CEO/founder John Bornoty is hopeful he'll be able to find a flight from Detroit, Michigan, to be at the store on Tuesday and dine with locals in attendance.

"Mauro and Celma are exactly the kind of owners we want in our franchise family and this is exactly the type of event we want our owners orchestrating," Bornoty said. "Richmond was our first restaurant outside the state of Michigan. We love being here. We love the people and we are grateful for the chance to show the love on Tuesday."

PepsiCo and the PepsiCo Foundation have donated $1 million to the Red Cross to aid the hurricane victims.

Guerilla Gourmet
James Canter, who owns the Guerilla Gourmet food truck in Texas, started a Gofundme  age in hopes of providing hot meals for hurricane victims in Victoria, Texas. He raised more than $7,000 toward his original goal of $10,000 during the first day. The fund has already topped $20,000.

Pizza Hut Sugarland
Shayda Habib, manager of a Pizza Hut in Sugarland, Texas, and her small crew made pizzas and delivered them via kayaks to families trapped inside their homes.

"When I heard there were families in need, I knew we needed to act fast," Habib said in a recent article. "I called my husband and asked him to gather up kayaks and meet me at the restaurant."

Cane Rosso restaurants
Cane Rosso, an eight-unit pizza joint based in Dallas, donated all proceeds from its Tuesday night sales at its Deep Ellum location.

The Starbucks Foundation has donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross to help with flooding recovery efforts. The chain is also urging customers to make their own contributions to Harvey relief efforts at any Starbucks store in the United States. The Red Cross will receive those funds. 

Amazon and Whole Foods
The companies, which recently joined forces, are matching cash donations to the Red Cross of up to $1 million made on

Topics: Insurance / Risk Management, Operations Management

Cherryh Cansler

Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for

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