Resources and Relief Programs Available to Restaurants During COVID-19

By: Chelsea Verstegen

9 Minute Read

Mar 23, 2020

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Every which way you turn, it seems the whole world has COVID-19 on the brain – and rightfully so. States, cities, and many major companies have issued statements to their customers and the public about how they are handling the COVID-19 outbreak. Yet more have created informative, actionable content and resources to help anyone in need during this chaotic and confusing time. 

As a proud member of the restaurant industry, Toast is here to help your restaurant in any way possible as you work to navigate and overcome the obstacles that COVID-19 has put in your path.  One of the best ways we can do that is through content. With all of the headlines, articles, and updates flying about, it can be hard to pinpoint which ones will actually help you, your restaurant, and your staff during this trying time. So,  we put together a list of worthy reads, available national and regional relief funds, non-profit donation opportunities, and resources from restaurant associations that stood out to us as informative, helpful, or useful.

We’ll be updating this list frequently, so continue to check back. And if you have information to share with the community, email us at

National Initiatives

Programs That Help Restaurants

  • Dining Bond is a collective of restaurant industry professionals that have set a global initiative in motion to get funds into the hands of restaurants now, even if they are temporarily closed. A Dining Bond works like a savings bond, where you can purchase a "bond" at a value rate to be redeemed for face value at a future date. 

  • Rally for Restaurants is a grassroots initiative to give restaurants a fighting chance amidst the COVID-19 health crisis through gift card purchases. Additionally, Toast will donate $1 for every gift card purchase shared on social media up to $250,000.

  • Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation created a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to give restaurants zero-interest loans, provide direct relief to individual restaurant workers, and donate to other nonprofit organizations serving restaurant workers.

  • Spill the Dish is a database of financial aid options for restaurant owners and workers. Users can search by state and job position to find resources from government agencies or nonprofits.

Programs That Help Restaurant Workers

  • CORE Gives grants support to children of food and beverage service employees navigating life-altering circumstances. 

  • Go Tip Em is a website that allows you to venmo bartenders around the United States as you enjoy a beverage at home. Using the hashtag #GoTipEm, the campaign encourages you to post a photo of a drink on social media, and donate to one of the bartenders in the directory. 

  • The Heirloom Foundation advocates for a healthy food industry through public outreach, wellness programs, and benefit events by reinvesting in communities through direct service grants to nonprofit organizations that provide support to restaurant workers and entrepreneurs.

  • JobGet is an app that helps workers in the restaurant or service industry find new jobs instantly.

  • One Fair Wage is working to give sub-minimum wage employees no-strings-attached cash assistance, with a goal of $213,000, since the federal tipped minimum wage is still $2.13 an hour. 

  • RentalAssistance is a directory of rental assistance agencies and organizations that will help you pay rent.

  • ROC United provides resources and financial assistance to restaurant workers impacted by the coronavirus crisis. ROC United has also created a petition called Stop the Spread, which urges all large restaurant chains to provide paid sick leave for employees, which will allow for stability for workers who need to stay home rather than coming to work sick.

  • United Way offers a 211 call service and encourages folks to reach out if they are unable to pay critical bills, access to childcare, or other essential needs. 

  • USBG Foundation provides social responsibility education and philanthropic programs in order to advance the health and wellbeing of service industry professionals. Additionally, they are raising funds for their COVID-19 Relief Campaign in order to bolster their Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, which provides bartenders who have experienced a catastrophic event or emergency hardship with a grant to make ends meet.

Programs That Help the Public

  • is working with government, community and foodservice partners to provide more than 15,000 emergency meals a day to support shelters, quarantine and isolation centers, and other communities in need during the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • Feeding America helps food banks across the country as they support communities impacted by the pandemic. Feeding America has launched the COVID-19 Response Fund, which will enable food banks to secure the additional resources they need to efficiently serve the most vulnerable members of the community nationwide.

  • World Central Kitchen has created a map that reflects feeding efforts to identify gaps in providing meals to those in need, and is working with partners to deliver meals to communities for families to take home. They are also creating community kitchens with restaurants that are temporarily transforming their establishment to serve their neighbors. Additionally, WCK has provided meals for quarantined cruise ship passengers, and has served over 12 million fresh meals to those in need. 

Regional Initiatives


  • Big Table Seattle, WA, Spokane, WA, & San Diego, CA - This nonprofit collects donations for hospitality workers and provides immediate crisis care through a personal referral network.

  • Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund Seattle, WA - A fundraiser to assist restaurant workers who are working less hours or have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • California Restaurant Association Foundation California - The California Restaurant Association Foundation created Restaurants Care which helps restaurant workers cover basic living expenses

  • Employment Development Department California - This website provides residents in California with information around unemployment and paid family leave.


  • Chicago Hospitality United Chicago, IL - An association that launched a line of merchandise where all proceeds go to hospitality workers around the city to provide relief for COVID-19. 

  • Chicago Family Support Services Rent Assistance Chicago, IL - An organization that assists individuals and households that are at risk of homelessness.

  • Michigan's COVID-19 Community Response Michigan - The group of community-based organizations are reorienting their collective resources for the care and survival of their most vulnerable residents, seniors, and working people and families.


  • Behind You Boston, MA - A nonprofit taking donations for hospitality workers in need on Boston's North Shore.

  • Food Link Massachusetts - A food rescue organization that collects restaurant and cafe food and distributes to those in need. 

  • Greater Boston Food Bank Boston, MA - The food bank collects donations for people in the Boston area experiencing hunger as a result of the COVID-19 crisis

  • New York Hospitality Alliance New York - The association lists employment opportunities, financial aid, critical hotlines, and where food can be donated on their resource page.

  • Rethink Food New York City, NY - Rethink Food will provide 30 New York restaurants with $40,000 to change their operation model into a food distribution center during the pandemic.


  • The Giving Kitchen Georgia - A nonprofit that provides financial assistance to those in crisis.

  • Hook Hall Washington D.C. - Working with Washington, D.C. Costco stores to fill open roles with restaurant workers that are out of work. They are also distributing care kits and family meals daily for industry workers in Washington D.C., and have implemented the Worker’s Relief Fund in partnership with Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington to receive donations to support industry worker relief measures. 

  • Lee Initiative Kentucky - In partnership with Maker’s Mark, the Lee Initiative has turned 610 Magnolia into a relief center for any restaurant worker who has been laid off or has had a significant reduction in hours. They are offering help for those in dire need of food and supplies. Additionally, they’ve started a Restaurant Workers Relief Program to fund restaurants in Louisville, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, Cincinnati, and New York City.

  • Southern Smoke Foundation Austin & Houston, TX -  An Emergency Relief Fund for those in crisis. To date, Southern Smoke has donated more than $1.6 million — both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry.

  • C’ville Restaurant Fund Charlottesville, VA - A community fundraiser requesting $200,000 for restaurant industry workers to pay for essential needs.

Additional Resources

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