Oct 14, 2020
Photo courtesy of Soul Food Mahanakorn
Starved of customers since March, the restaurant industry is in dire straits. Just when it seemed things might be picking up across Asia… no country has fully opened its borders, meaning not only no tourists but also not enough financial security to ensure people just casually spendspendspend. As you’ll see in this video, even some of the most popular restaurants in Bangkok—such as carnivore-heaven 100 Mahaseth, Michelin-starred bo.lan, and OG trendsetter Soul Food Mahanakorn—are being squeezed, and so they’ve been using their big names to organize small-scale, collective-minded eating and drinking events to support their staff.
It’s a worldwide problem that The World’s 50 Best is addressing head-on this week with its 50 Best for Recovery Summit, a three-day telecast featuring acclaimed, innovative chefs offering masterclasses, sharing inspirational stories of restructuring, and talking about the post-COVID future of food. Tune in for the likes of Bjorn Frantzen, Julien Royer and Daniel Humm, but open your wallet for the Recovery Fund, which has to date funneled US$1.23 million and counting to independent restaurants and bars around the globe as well as non-profits that feed our societies’ most vulnerable.
Read on for just a few examples of other local initiatives around our region. The easiest thing you can do? Eat out or order in (depending on your country’s social-distancing rules)–and buy a bottle or three.
Early on in Singapore’s “circuit breaker,” influential restaurateurs Loh Lik Peng and Beppe de Vito saw the writing on the wall, and banded together with some 200 others representing more than 500 outlets to lobby for assistance from the government and landlords, and to engage customers with a unified voice via #savefnbsg. Their latest initiative is #Hi5SG, which aggregates restaurants ranging from Michelin-starred Burnt Ends to classic neighborhood pubs in one place to encourage dining out and taking-away. The website gives diners discounts, perks and the opportunity to donate to charity. Plus, every participating merchant supports =DREAMS, a new residential holistic-learning program to help talented low-income students make it on to and succeed in uni.
Hong Kong has suffered through such a double-whammy with COVID-19 and the protests that it’s a wonder so many people can keep the faith. But in the spring, 600 restaurants (with 10,000 employees) formed #savehkfnb, and through its 2020 Wipeout project raised HK$1.5 million selling restaurant vouchers with up to 50-percent bonus values to generate much-needed cash. Coming in November is the second iteration of #UnitedWeDine, in which restaurants from across the spectrum develop exclusive dishes or offer great discounts to get butts in seats. The campaign organized by Hong Kong Tatler, in conjunction with a bunch of other media including Time Out Hong Kong, will also offer frequent diners the chance to win prizes like staycations and top-shelf booze.
Over in Australia, Help Out Hospo sells friendly video cooking, mixology and barista classes for super reasonable prices (starting at A$10). Snag three-hatted chef Grant King’s recipe for Lobster Pot Roast, or get a primer in American barbecuing from meat-trimming to tool selection with Fire&Brimstone pitmaster Brad Shorten. All proceeds go to restaurant and bar workers who’ve lost jobs or income because of the pandemic. If you just want to donate, that’s cool, too. The normally register-side Tip Jar has been moved online to raise money for struggling F&B workers who don’t qualify for government assistance. They’re aiming to raise A$1 million and donors have the chance to win prizes, from A$1,000 in dining vouchers to a year’s supply of Wild Life Brewery beer.