Panoringan: What Resources are Available for Restaurant Owners and Employees? Plus, the Latest Grocery Store Safety Strategies

HEIDE JANSSEN, Voice of OC

The temporary closure notice on the door at Hanna's in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Editor’s Note: Voice of OC brings you the best, most comprehensive Orange County COVID-19 news absolutely free. No ads, no paywalls. We could use your help. Please click here to make tax-deductible donation or to become a monthly sustaining donor.


Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly On the Line column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

Subscribe now to receive emails letting you know about her latest work.

According to the most recent announcement by the Orange County Health Agency, all restaurants and business establishments that serve food shall close all on-site dining consistent with guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health for Retail Food, Beverage and Other Related Service Venues. All food served shall be by delivery, or through pick-up or drive-thru.

The foodservice industry struggles to maintain business. Many operators have voluntarily shuttered their storefronts temporarily. Those that remain advertise promotions and more alternatives to traditional dining, such as delivery services and online ordering (reducing wait times for takeout) via app or website.

Servers, bartenders, hosts, bussers, cooks and many others are seeking help as scheduled hours diminish, translating to a loss of wages and gratuities. As a result of my recent coverage on Coronavirus this week, I’ve received emails offering resources ready to be tapped. Below are a handful of ways establishments and employees can seek assistance.

If you have anything to add to this list, reach out to Anne Marie Panoringan at ampanoringan@voiceofoc.org.

For Restaurant Owners

Small Business Administration (SBA)

Communication from the office for local Congressman Harley Rouda reached out to discuss Orange County’s eligibility for SBA economic disaster loans.

Per Rouda, “Through this program, each eligible business can receive up to $2 million in working capital loans to help overcome temporary loss of revenue.” He voted on this bipartisan package to ensure small businesses received access to low-interest loans.

Interested parties can apply at the Disaster Loan Assistance website. For additional information, the U.S. Small Business Administration can also be reached at (800) 659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Waste Not OC

Through monetary donations, volunteers, trained food runners and unwanted food (from closed restaurants and cancelled events), the Waste Not OC Coalition strives to both reduce food waste and assist with ending food hunger.

Their method is a three-step process.

  1. First, they receive calls on a “Food Recovery” line (1-855-700-9662) from places that want to donate excess perishable and non-perishable goods. They are then directed to non-profit agencies to assist feeding those in need.
  2. Additionally, Waste Not reaches out to medical care professionals, helping them screen patients for food insecurity.
  3. Once a connection is made, doctors and providers can share details linking these individuals to their nearest pantries via an interactive map. This ensures reduced food waste by kitchens, plus offers tax deductions for food donations.

Kitchen Table Marketing + PR

A woman-owned, woman-run agency based in Newport Beach with over 20 years of industry experience, KTM is conducting complimentary 30-minute phone sessions, as well as sharing tips and ideas on their social media feeds.

They discuss must-do communications strategies, plus ways to navigate the challenging business climate. Reach out to them via their website, by phone at (949) 433-6735, or by emailing contact@kitchentablepr.com to schedule.

Foodbeast

“How can we support your closed restaurant?” is the question posed by co-founder Geoff Kutnick. With over one million followers, Foodbeast’s social media reach is far and wide, and they have put themselves out there to advertise for restaurants, bars and catering companies at no cost.

If you have an e-commerce product that can be promoted, sold and shipped, reach out through their website, or to Kutnick directly via his social media.

For Service Employees

United States Bartenders Guild

Believing in social responsibility, community service and philanthropy, the USBG National Charity Foundation is comprised of professionals from nonprofit, hospitality and beverage industries.

Bartenders, spouses or children of bartenders may apply for The National Charitable Foundations Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, offered through USBG. Financial assistance will be awarded on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis. Grants will be made in the form of lump sum distributions to the recipient, or as determined by the USBG. Additional resources for the bar industry community are also listed, such as the California Restaurant Association Foundation.

Note: Membership in USBG is not required to apply for a philanthropic grant.

Golden Rule Charity

Their mission states that they “provide support to hospitality employees affected by unanticipated hardship.” It is unclear what kind of resources they have to affect the numbers of people displaced by the pandemic, however, it may be worth reaching out to them.

If you would like to contribute to an organization that helps the service industry employees, they also accept donations on their website.

In Grocery Store News

Has grocery shopping turned into a scavenger hunt? I understand your frustration. Frozen, canned and boxed items are near impossible to find. Yet fresh produce is in abundance. Below are a few of the updates from local grocery chains.

Trader Joe’s

As of March 16 (and until further notice), all stores will have operating hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Increased cleaning procedures, as well as prioritizing hygiene practices, are in line with their commitment to a clean shopping environment.

In addition, some stores have instituted a two-item maximum on all items; this may not be the same everywhere, however. And if you haven’t already noticed, all food and beverage samples have been suspended.

Stater Bros. Markets

As of March 15, all locations will be operating from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to allow time to clean and replenish. Stater will remain open as long as they can provide a safe experience for employees and shoppers.

They are asking customers to please only shop for your weekly needs, so that product is available to everyone. Limits on high-demand items are also in place.

Lastly, effective March 8 (and until further notice), all sales are final. Take that, hoarders!

Northgate Gonzalez Market

As of March 17, seniors 65 and older, disabled customers and pregnant women will be allowed to shop from 7-8 a.m. exclusively.

Everybody else will be welcomed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you have not yet experienced the very large branch in Anaheim off East Lincoln, it’s worth checking out for their large selection of goods.

Whole Foods Market

Starting March 18, all U.S. and Canada locations will service customers who are 60 and older one hour before opening to the public.

In addition, Whole Foods will close up to two hours early for restocking, sanitizing, and rest for team members. For locations that offer pickup service, the stores will remain open during those two hours.

Please check the hours of your local store for more accurate information. As of March 16, there have also been temporary closures of self-serve areas, indoor and outdoor seating, hot bars, salad and soup bars.

Gelson’s

Starting March 18, Gelson’s will open from 7-8 a.m. for customers 65 and older. You may be asked for identification. All other customers are invited to shop from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at ampanoringan@voiceofoc.org.