It’s no secret that Covid-19 has hurt the restaurant and hospitality industry in a huge way. With restaurants and bars forced to close, many in the hospitality industry have found themselves furloughed or laid off.
Meanwhile, restaurants like The Tasting Room have had to be creative in order to survive and keep their key staff employed. Like most other restaurants, The Tasting Room locations are open for takeout and to-go orders. But owner and founder Jerry Lasco wanted to be able to give back to the community as well. On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, his company began offering free family meal kits at his Uptown Park Location to out-of-work hospitality workers.
The family meal kits consist of four generous servings of executive chef Beto Guitierrez’s lasagna and salad. Hospitality workers just need to show up with a copy of a recent pay stub to pick up their meal. The first such giveaway was such a success that Lasco and Dave Berry of MyEcoPlanet.com launched a Go Fund Me campaign called Feeding Houston's hospitality and first responders to keep the free Tuesday meal kits going.
Per the campaign, for every $1,000 raised, 250 families of four could be fed. Thanks to the generosity of donors, LASCO Enterprises, the parent company of The Tasting Room, has been able to continue the Tuesday meal kit giveaway for four consecutive weeks already and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They’ve also been able to launch a Thursday free meal service for First Responders out of Max’s Wine Dive on Washington Avenue.
I stopped by this past Tuesday evening around 4:30 p.m. (check The Tasting Room’s Instagram or Facebook page for weekly announcements) to pick up my own meal kit. Standing in front when I arrived was a mini welcoming committee comprised of Jerry Lasco, Dave Berry, chef Beto Gutierrez and Lisa Endicott of Endicott PR. Off to the side, there was a table where you could also choose from a selection of wines priced at a mere $10 bottle.
The meal kits are prepared ahead of time so that you can be in and out very quickly. I drove up curbside, rolled down my window, and was presented with a meal kit by chef Beto himself. Everyone on site was geared up with masks and gloves and standing six feet apart from each other. The entire transaction lasted all of five minutes, and felt exceedingly safe and efficient.
Asked if he was able to retain his staff due to the initiative, Lasco says “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to keep all of our staff, but we were able to keep some and it gives us something to do and a purpose.”
The Tasting Room Uptown Park’s “Free Meals for Out-of-Work Restaurant Employees" is currently offered on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and available on a first come, first served basis with proof of industry employment. For those who don’t qualify for the meal kits, the restaurant is also offering family meal kits for takeout which include four portions of lasagna, a salad kit, dessert, and a bottle of wine for $40. Meal kits for two are available as well.
Can't make it to The Tasting Room Uptown Park on Tuesdays but have been impacted by Covid-19? The following restaurants and organizations are also providing aid/provisions to the hospitality industry:
- Riel Restaurant, funded by donations via chef Ed Lee’s leeinitiative.org, launched the Restaurant Workers Relief Program to provide hot meals and other necessities like paper towels toilet paper, and diapers seven days a week from 4 to 7 pm. Come with a pay stub or proof of employment in the hospitality industry.
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- Houston Shift Meal: Hospitality workers can register for a free meal from a network of participating restaurants on the Houston Shift Meal Facebook page under the Events tab. Meals are provided on a limited basis with specific pickup times, dates and locations.
- Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay, located in the River Oaks district, working in conjunction with Urban Harvest, are offering raw meal kits to hospitality workers and first responders on a first-come, first-serve basis with proof of employment/badge or company ID on Fridays from 10 a.m to 12 p.m. in April.
- Goodnight Hospitality, working in conjunction with local farmers and vendors, has been providing limited quantity boxes of provisions Saturday afternoons beginning at 2 p.m. at Goodnight Charlies on a first come, first served basis.